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Some Americans blocked from ordering Biden’s free Covid tests in early website launch

Take home COVID-19 self testing kits provided by the District of Columbia government, which provides city residents four free take home tests per day, are seen in this illustration taken January 11, 2022.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Americans on Tuesday started placing orders for free Covid tests promised by the Biden administration after the federal government rolled out the website a day earlier than expected — with some complaining on social media that they were blocked from ordering the tests.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the website, covidtests.gov, is in its testing phase and will officially launch Wednesday morning. Orders placed during the website’s testing phase Tuesday are valid and will be shipped, White House spokesman Kevin Munoz told CNBC.

Every household, based on residential address, is limited to four tests. The White House said last week it capped the number of tests people can order to ensure broad access to the program.

Tests can be ordered here: https://www.covidtests.gov/

After a user clicks on “order free at-home tests,” the website redirects the user to a Postal Service order form, where they submit a name and address before checking out.

The Postal Service will ship the tests 7 to 12 days after orders are placed, according to the Biden administration. The website on Tuesday said orders would start shipping at the end of the month.

While some users said the website was simple and easy to use, others — particularly people who live in apartment buildings — reported problems in social media posts on Tuesday.

“Every website launch, in our view, comes with risk,” Psaki told reporters during a White House briefing Tuesday. “We can’t guarantee there won’t be a bug or two. But the best tech teams across the administration and the Postal Service are working hard to make this a success,” she said.

The White House launched the website after a public outcry over widespread testing shortages during the busy holiday travel season as the highly contagious Covid omicron variant swept the country. Pharmacies large and small struggled to keep at-home tests in stock as demand suddenly surged.

President Joe Biden said the administration is procuring a total of 1 billion at-home tests to distribute to Americans for free. The Defense Department is awarding contracts for the tests in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services.

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