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A new strategy to fight COVID: more home test kits

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Rapid at-home Covid-19 test kits are ready to be distributed by the GreenRoots environmental protection organization and Chelsea Community Connections in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on December 17, 2021. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

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Starting next month, President Biden has announced that the federal government will have 500 million at-home rapid COVID tests available to mail to people around the country for free. 

He said there will be websites where you can log on and request that tests be mailed to you at home. 

Sending free COVID tests to people at home is a big step in the right direction, said Dr. Kavita Patel at the Brookings Institution. 

“But, we need a lot more than 500 million,” she said.

For rapid tests to really be useful, she said, people should be able to take them pretty much every day. 

“Back of the envelope math, we’re talking about billions of tests,” she said.

But, those 500 million tests are just one part of a bigger strategy: to increase access to free at-home testing. The administration is also making home tests available for pick-up at places like community health centers and requiring insurance companies to reimburse people for tests they buy.

“Taken together, that set of changes is a pretty dramatic difference from what we saw just a few months ago,” said Lindsey Dawson of the Kaiser Family Foundation, who notes that until recently, the federal government really wasn’t investing much upfront in home testing.

“It actually impacted manufacturers’ willingness to produce tests at a large scale for the U.S.,” she said.

Biden said his administration has invested $3 billion dollars to increase the number of at-home tests.

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