A day after U.S. President Joe Biden announced he had directed his administration to secure a billion rapid Covid-19 tests to distribute for free amid rising infections nationwide, the White House revealed Americans can start placing orders online next week.
"There will be free tests available for every household, and to promote broad access, the initial program will allow four free tests to be requested per residential address," according to a White House fact sheet. "Starting January 19th, Americans will be able to order their tests online at Covidtests.gov, and tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering."
"To ensure equity and access for all Americans, the administration will also launch a call line to help those unable to access the website to place orders, and work with national and local community-based organizations to support the nation's hardest-hit and highest-risk communities in requesting tests," the document noted.
While the shipping timeline provoked some criticism—particularly given the latest business-friendly isolation guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—the administration's plan to distribute free tests is widely popular across party lines.
Polling results released Friday show that 72% of voters of all parties support the plan to "ship free Covid-19 tests to anyone who requests one"—including 88% of Democrats, 71% of Independents, and 55% of Republicans—compared to 24% who oppose it.
The survey was conducted by the progressive think tank Data for Progress January 7-10, before the details of the administration's plan were unveiled.
Biden had said Thursday that "we're on track to roll out a website next week where you can order free tests shipped to your home," and in addition to the 500 million tests "that are in the process of being acquired," he directed his team to "procure an additional half a billion."
The president had also pointed out that "for those of you with insurance, you can get reimbursed for eight tests a month," and "for those without insurance, we have over 20,000 free testing sites all around the country."
Based on federal guidance released earlier this week, beginning Saturday, private health insurance providers must cover up to eight over-the-counter Covid-19 tests, without requiring a prescription or prior authorization, each month.
The president, during his Thursday speech, also asked people across the country to "please wear a mask," and said that next week "we'll announce how we are making high-quality masks available to American people… for free."
Data for Progress found that 64% of all voters—including 85% of Democrats, 63% of Independents, and 43% of Republicans—support "a proposal for the government to distribute free N95 masks to people in the United States."
The CDC finally officially acknowledged on Friday that "loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection."
According to Data for Progress, cloth masks are most common among Americans (39%), followed by disposable surgical masks (31%), then N95 masks (15%). Only 11% said they tend to not wear a mask while 3% said they wear some other sort of face covering.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday reintroduced his Masks for All Act that aims to distribute free N95 masks to everyone in the nation. He was also among the dozens of federal lawmakers who jointly put pressure on the White House last weekend to boost access to testing.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the Biden administration's vaccine-or-test mandate for large private employers but allowed a Covid-19 vaccination mandate for workers in healthcare facilities that receive federal money to stand.