U.S. Spends $1 Billion to Make More Home COVID Tests Available
Oct. 6, 2021 — Finding an at-home COVID-19 test has been mission impossible for many lately, but that search will soon get easier, thanks to the FDA authorization Monday of a new at-home test and today’s announcement that the federal government will spend another $1 billion to speed up production of these tests.
The White House said it will also double the number of pharmacy locations in the federal government’s free testing program to 20,000. With the number of community-based free testing sites, that would make 30,000 locations where Americans can get a COVID-19 test free of charge.
The move, combined with vaccination efforts, will help businesses and schools keep cases down and keep operating safely and smoothly, said Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.
“Together, the steps we’re taking will ensure every American, no matter their income level or ZIP code, can access accurate, convenient, and affordable testing,” he said.
The announcement aligns with the administration’s February commitment of $1.6 billion to supply rapid tests to schools and underserved communities.
The increase in access to at-home tests can’t come soon enough. President Joe Biden and his predecessor have both been criticized for the lack of authorized COVID-19 tests compared to other developed countries. There are barely a half dozen approved for use in the United States, compared to 30 authorized in the European Union. Home tests cost more in the U.S., too.
That lack of supply and increased demand can make the search for tests frustrating. I know first-hand. I’m fully vaccinated, but I wanted to test after a recent flight, so I checked for the tests online at Amazon and at CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid stores in my area, 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles.
Time after time, I got “out of stock” messages, both online and in the stores. Finally, I found a supply at a CVS about 8 miles away and called to verify. First, I was told they were in stock. But that quickly changed to, “No, sorry, we’re out.”
Then, my nearby Rite Aid said they’d get a supply in 2 days and to show up at 7 a.m. When I did so, the store clerk told me the shipment had not come — and the supplier didn’t call or explain why it didn’t arrive. Finally, another CVS near me said they did indeed have some and would hold two kits for me — their limit per customer. I drove to get them right away. I tested myself twice. Both were negative, thankfully.