Biden administration has millions of tests sitting in WAREHOUSES
The Biden administration’s plan to dole out 500 million at-home Covid tests to Americans currently involves producing no new tests, according to a federal health official.
Instead, the Biden team will focus on drawing down stockpiles of tests that have sat unused at warehouses.
Contracts to buy the tests were signed with a number of companies, each of which holds a stockpile of Covid-19 tests, Dawn O’Connell, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for preparedness and response, told a Senate panel Tuesday.
That is ‘why you’re seeing contracts with warehouses and not with testing manufacturers,’ O’Connell added.
Because of this, the Biden administration will be able to begin distributing the tests by the end of January.
Contracts have been signed over the last week to buy coronavirus tests from Goldbelt Security LLC, Revival Health, Inc., Medea Inc. and Atlantic Trading LLC.
Prior to the pandemic, Medea sold vodka and Goldbelt described itself as a distribution and logistics company. Last May another contract awarded to Medea came under fire, when FEMA offered the company $50 million to make KN-95 masks despite no experience in mask making.
The Biden administration also announced on Monday it is requiring insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests
The White House has not yet released details about how to order the free tests, has said that they will do so by the end of this week.
Psaki said the White House expects to have all contracts awarded for the tests over the next two weeks.
And as millions of tests sit unused in warehouses, Americans have been waiting hours in testing lines as shelves lay bare where at-home Covid tests are supposed to be stocked.
People wait in long lines to get tested for Covid-19 ahead of the holidays in Washington, D.C.
People wait in long lines to get tested for Covid-19 ahead of the holidays in New York City
Psaki pushed back against criticism of the long testing lines that popped up around the country as Americans sought to get tested around the holiday season.
‘There has been a massive surge in cases as you know,’ Psaki said. ‘There’s been an unprecedented demand for tests.’
The Biden administration also announced on Monday it is requiring insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests, so people with private health coverage can get them for free starting Saturday, January 15th.
The tests do not need to be ordered from health insurance companies but can be picked up online or at a pharmacy. Health insurancers will cover the cost or reimburse.
Private health insurers will have to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans. A family of four, for instance, could be reimbursed for up to 32 tests per month. PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance with no limit.
Over the past seven days, the U.S. has averaged 767,000 new cases per day, a metric that often smooths out spikes caused by reporting lags, which is the most the nation has averaged during the pandemic. The average, which was sitting at 235,269 cases two weeks ago, has more than tripled over the past 14 days.
On Monday, the United States reached a new record for number of Americans hospitalized with the COVID, with more than 146,000 people currently admitted with the virus, higher than the 132,051 record set in January last year.
Despite rising hospitalizations, not as many Americans are dying from the virus as they were in previous surges, and not all of these hospitalizations are directly caused by the virus. Many people who go to the hospital for reason outside of Covid, such as injury or other ailments, are being tested while there.
The U.S. also surpassed 60 million cases of the virus as of Monday morning according to Johns Hopkins University.
Psaki detailed the work the administration has done to try and ease the testing burden, including opening up 20,000 testing sites around the country, sending out 15 million tests to community and rural health centers, and finalizing the contracts for the 500 million at-home tests
Psaki also expressed confidence the U.S. Postal Service, which has the contract to deliver some of the at-home testing kits being offered for free by the government, will make the deliveries.
The USPS recently warned the administration that implementing its vaccine-mandate rule could have ‘catastrophic’ results with staff leaving. The mail system asked for more time to negotiate with the union over the requirement.
But Psaki argued because USPS was able to make its Christmas deliveries, it should have no problem delivering testing kits.
‘The Postal Service also delivered 98, 99% of packages on time in advance of Christmas and their leaders have also said they’re eager to take on this challenge. So we welcome that. And we’re looking forward to working with them to get these tests out to the public,’ she said.