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January 28, 2022 2:00 PM, EST

‘Tens of Millions’ of COVID Tests Are in the Mail

A cotton swab from a COVID-19 self-test kitA cotton swab from a COVID-19 self-test kit. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News)

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About 60 million households in the U.S. have ordered at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government after President Joe Biden made them available for free to ease shortages fueled by the omicron variant.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre announced the figure on Jan. 28. “Tens of millions” of tests have been shipped out, she said.

The Biden administration hasn’t said how many tests it has so far received for delivery to households, though many have begun arriving at homes around the country.

Biden directed his administration in December to order 500 million tests as omicron, a winter surge and holiday travel sapped supply and made it difficult or impossible for people to get a test. Earlier this month, he doubled that order to a billion, and opened a website where people could request tests delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

It’s not clear how many of the 1 billion tests have been provided to the government — and thus it’s not clear if they have enough to fill the existing orders. Each order is for four tests, meaning that 60 million household orders accounts for 240 million tests.

Wired magazine earlier reported the number of orders placed.

Coronavirus cases are falling nationally, especially in major cities that were hit hardest and earliest by omicron, which is more easily transmitted but not as severe as earlier forms of the virus. Testing shortages have eased, with tests more readily available at retailers.

As of this month, people are able to file claims to private insurance plans to cover the cost of up to eight tests per month per person. The U.S. also has free testing sites that the administration has encouraged people to use if they can’t find an at-home test.

—With assistance from Nancy Cook

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