COVID-19 tests come too late


Last week, the Biden administration announced that 67 million U.S. households ordered at-home COVID-19 tests through a government website in January. Ten million have yet to receive their tests — more than a month after the site launched.

In many parts of the country, the omicron wave has already receded. Daily cases dropped by more than 40% nationwide between the second and third week of February. One analysis estimates that 73% of the population is now immune to omicron. Even the bluest states are rolling back vaccination and masking requirements. So those tests are arriving just in time to be filed away at the back of the medicine cabinet.

When the Biden administration debuted its website, they assured that tests would be shipped in seven to 12 days. Even that proved too optimistic for millions of people. Perhaps they should’ve just outsourced the effort to Amazon.

But the test rollout has faced logistical obstacles as well. Some COVID-19 tests won’t work if they’ve been exposed to extremely low temperatures in transit. Twelve days on a mail truck in the dead of winter might render lots of those tests dysfunctional .

In metropolitan Washington, D.C., the decline has been especially dramatic. Cases there are down 90% compared to the start of the omicron wave, prompting Mayor Muriel Bowser to end the city’s vaccination and indoor mask mandates. In Maryland, the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is currently the lowest in the nation .

The public desperately needed tests last month — when omicron was infecting 800,000 people each day .

The Biden administration’s plan was too little, too late. But that’s simply par for the government course.

Sally C. Pipes is the president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is  False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All  (Encounter 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

Scroll to Top