INDIANAPOLIS — Beginning Wednesday, Americans will have the opportunity to get free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests shipped straight to their doorstep.
U.S. households can order a maximum of four free at-home COVID-19 tests from the website, COVIDTests.gov, starting on Jan. 19 with shipping expected within seven to 12 days of ordering.
The White House said it is part of a federal program aimed to ease the shortage of rapid tests nationwide with roughly 500 million tests being released during this first phase.
“I would definitely recommend that symptomatic people in the household get priority for the test,” said Angela Cox, administrator for the Henry County Health Department. “And then opt for those state testing sites for the people who are not symptomatic.”
It has been three weeks since Indiana received its last shipment of rapid COVID-19 tests and supplies have completely run out.
In Henry County, those rapid tests are typically saved for congregate settings, like schools and jails. Now that PCR tests are the only option for everyone, Cox said her county-run testing sites are getting slammed.
“We saw a huge increase in the number of people that were driving from as far away as the west side of Indianapolis to find a test,” said Cox who is also a public health nurse. “We did over 648 tests alone last week.”
Cox said the free tests being offered by the Biden Administration may not be enough to test everyone in your household, but she said it will help alleviate some of the long testing lines.
“We cannot sustain the number of drive-thru testing sites that we have maintained for almost two years now,” said Cox.
“Testing demand has gone up while the supply really hasn’t been able to keep up with that demand,” said Dr. Thomas Duszynski, director of epidemiology education at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.
Although testing supplies are limited per household, Duszynski said he believes the program is a step in the right direction.
“Even if you don’t have enough test for everybody in the household – for example, you’re a household of five people and you get four tests – if four people come back positive you can pretty much assume that the fifth person is exposed and or infected as well,” said Duszynski. “So not absolutely everybody has to be tested within a household but it is nice if somebody does present signs and symptoms.”
The Biden administration also has plans to launch a phone line for people who do not have access to a computer or internet.
White House officials said the tests being shipped out to Americans are coming from new manufacturing capacity and should not interfere with the existing supplies that drugstores, health clinics and state governments are relying on.
CBS4 reached out to the Indiana Department of Health for an update on when it was expecting its next shipment of rapid COVID-19 tests but did not hear back.