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White House Updates Plans to Increase COVID-19 Testing Availability

NEW YORK – In a press briefing on Wednesday, the White House COVID-19 Response Team offered updates on administration efforts to distribute additional COVID-19 tests in light of widespread shortages due to the Omicron surge. 

Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that the administration is making "significant progress" on obtaining the 500 million free rapid tests it promised to distribute in December. He added that the deliveries of these tests from manufacturers to the US government will begin "over the next week or so," with Americans receiving free tests "in the coming weeks." 

Zients said the federal government will set up a "free and easy system, including a new website, to get these tests out." He also noted that the 500 million tests would be newly manufactured tests, not ones that have previously been distributed to pharmacies, which is "made possible by the fact that the [US Food and Drug Administration] across the last few months [has] authorized many more rapid tests."

He also said the administration is "working to do all we can" to increase access to testing, including setting up additional testing sites in Maine, Maryland, Delaware, Texas, and Washington state. 

As of next week, at-home tests will also be reimbursed by private payors — a change White House officials announced at the beginning of December.

During the press briefing, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that there are ongoing studies within the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to refine and fine-tune COVID-19 tests "from every aspect, from sensitivity, specificity, and predictability" so they can quantitatively determine whether a person is infectious.