The Biden administration on Tuesday quietly launched its website for Americans to request free at-home Covid-19 tests, a day before the site was scheduled to officially go online.
The website, CovidTests.gov, now includes a link for Americans to access an order form run by the US Postal Service.
People can order four at-home tests per residential address. It marks the latest step by Joe Biden to address criticism of low inventory and long lines for testing during a nationwide surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the website was in “beta testing” and operating at a “limited capacity” ahead of its official launch. The website will officially launch mid-morning on Wednesday, Psaki said.
There were isolated reports of problems relating to the address verification tool erroneously enforcing the four-per-household cap on apartment buildings and other multi-unit dwellings, but it was not immediately clear how widespread the issue was.
At points more than 750,000 people were accessing the website at the same time, according to public government tracking data, but it was not immediately known how many orders were placed.
Psaki added that the administration was anticipating a “bug or two” but had IT experts from across the government working to get the site ready.
Biden announced last month that the US would buy 500m tests to launch the program and on Thursday the president announced that he was doubling the order to 1bn.
But Americans shouldn’t expect a rapid turnaround on orders and will have to plan ahead and request tests well before they meet federal guidelines for when to use one.
The White House said “tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering” through USPS, which reports shipping times of one to three days for its first-class package service in the continental US.
Officials emphasized that the federal website is just one way for people to procure tests, and shortages of at-home test kits have shown signs of easing as more supply has hit the market.
Since Saturday, private insurance companies have been required to cover the cost of at-home rapid tests, allowing Americans to be reimbursed for tests they buy at pharmacies and online retailers. That covers up to eight tests a month.