Even though President Biden assured Americans that he would make 500 million coronavirus tests accessible free of charge, relief will not arrive for at least many weeks, if not months, for nervous Americans dealing with an increase in new virus cases.
The number of tests that consumers will be able to obtain or how soon they will be supplied have not been disclosed by the company, which expects to make them accessible next month. Manufacturers claim that they are already churning out tests at the speed of light.
During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama pledged to conduct a half-billion tests as part of a new aggressive testing effort announced just days before Christmas, in which Americans try to find the difficult-to-find tests so they can determine whether they are infected during the holiday season
It is unknown if testing manufacturers will be able to scale up production to generate an additional 500 million at-home tests, or when they will be able to do so. Abbot Laboratories’ John M. Koval, a spokesperson for the firm, which makes quick at-home antigen testing, said in an email that the company is seeing “unprecedented demand” for its tests.
Mr. Koval said that the firm is operating its production units around the clock, investing in automation, and recruiting additional employees. Abbott will do 70 million tests in January, according to him, and “has the potential to expand dramatically in the coming months.”
According to a statement issued by Ellume, an Australian producer of a competing quick test, the company “stands poised to fulfil the additional demand” by providing the government with 8.5 million tests and by constructing a new production facility in Frederick, Maryland, beginning in January. Once completely operational, the factory will be able to generate 15 million tests every month once it is fully operating.
The Biden proposal is up against competition from state and local politicians who jumped the gun and announced their plans before the president. Earlier this month, the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, announced that his government will make 500,000 Abbott at-home tests accessible to the public. In October, the state of Colorado started offering free at-home exams. As part of a new statewide initiative, dozens of cities and towns in Massachusetts have already begun offering free HIV testing to residents.
Experts believe it is improbable that the 500 million additional tests will be made accessible at the same time as they are now planned. It is believed that they would be dispersed over a two- to three-month period, according to Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist and former Harvard professor who has frequently campaigned for the expansion of the use of testing.
The White House also said that the government has enhanced various ways of testing in recent months, including delivering 50 million free tests to community health clinics and providing assistance to hot zones.
After making such pledges early in his presidency, Mr. Biden’s administration followed through, assisting states in the establishment of a nationwide network of drive-through testing centres, which is intended to stimulate the development of quick, in-home examinations. According to White House officials, he did establish a testing board, which is comprised of representatives from a variety of federal departments. During his tenure, the Food and Drug Administration has sped up the approval of at-home testing; there are currently around a dozen accessible, compared to none when he started office.
However, the drive-in stations were generally closed over the summer months due to a decline in demand as the speed of vaccinations increased and the number of cases fell. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time, vaccinated Americans who had been exposed to the coronavirus but did not show any symptoms did not need to be tested. In September, the EPA overturned its previous recommendation.
Following the outbreak of Omicron at the end of November, the president announced that those with private insurance would be able to receive reimbursement for the purchase of at-home tests, and he committed to delivering 50 million rapid tests to community health centres by the end of the following year.
It was clear from Mr. Biden’s own words when reporters questioned him at the White House on Tuesday that the Omicron surge had taken the White House completely by surprise, as the testing announcement on Tuesday demonstrated.