“This will help ensure that those who need the tests the most receive them as soon as possible,” said the official, who was given anonymity to speak freely about the site.
The U.S. Postal Service said the problem stems from the fact that buildings are not registered as complexes with multiple units and only affected a “small percentage of orders.”
The issue raises concerns about access for the millions of Americans living in apartment buildings and other multi-unit homes. Justice, and in particular health justice regarding Covid-19, has been a priority for the Biden administration. A scheduled telephone hotline for people without Internet access was not yet available Tuesday. The administration official stressed that the site has not been officially launched and that the call line will be ready by the end of the week.
The administration said last week that Americans would be able to order up to four tests per year. residential address via the website and see test sent within 7 to 12 days of booking via US Postal Service. Critics have also noted that four tests per. address may not be enough for larger multi-generational households or extended families living under one roof.
“The question is, if you have a lower income and you have more than one family in the same household at the same address,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
The administration’s website points users to more than 20,000 free test sites nationwide, as well as insurance reimbursement for home testing.
“We’re been pretty clear that there are a number of ways you can access free testing,” the official said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press briefing Tuesday that he did not necessarily expect a perfect rollout.
“Any website launch in our opinion is associated with risk. We can not guarantee that there will not be a mistake or two, ”said Psaki. “But the best technical teams across the administration and the postal service are working hard to make this a success.”
Government websites have not always worked as planned, from the failed HealthCare.gov, which crashed on the first day of open enrollment under the Obama administration, to a national Covid-19 test site, former President Donald Trump announced that it did not come for fertility.
Experts had warned that standing up for the Covid-19 test site would be a challenge, though not on par with the failed Obamacare exchange site, which was a more complex task. But taking millions of orders and sending hundreds of millions in the midst of a raging pandemic is no small logistical task, experts said.
So far, traffic to the test site has been high, with more than a million people on at some point Tuesday afternoon. Anil Dash, CEO of software company Glitch, in a tweet noted the website’s ability to keep an increase in users and calls it a “truly technically impressive pre-launch.”
Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, argued that given the potential problems of getting tests delivered to everyone’s addresses, there must be alternative ways to get tested. Tests at local pharmacies or libraries could be options, she said.
“But perfect can not be the enemy of good,” Wen said. “Home delivery of fast tests is an excellent way to get tests for people who want them, and it’s much simpler than the cumbersome process of insurance reimbursement.”
David Lim contributed to this report.
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