Nearly half of the 500 million free COVID-19 tests President Joe Biden's administration recently made available to the public have yet to be claimed, as coronavirus cases have plummeted and people feel less urgency. for getting tested.
Wild swings in demand have been a subplot in the pandemic, from vaccines to hand sanitizer, along with testing.
On the first day of the White House test lottery in January, the COVIDtests.gov site received more than 45 million requests. Now officials say fewer than 100,000 orders a day are coming in for the packages of four free rapid tests per household that are delivered by the Postal Service.
Still, the White House sees the program as a step toward a deeper, but more elastic, testing infrastructure that will adapt to surges in demand and remain on hold when cases decline. "We fully intend to keep this market," said Dr. Tom Inglesby, testing adviser to the COVID-19 response team. “We know that the market is volatile and will go up and down with sudden increases in variants.”
The White House says that Americans have requested 68 million test kits, leaving 46 percent of the stock still available.
Testing will become more important with reduced mask requirements, some experts say.
Meanwhile, the administration relaxed federal guidelines on wearing masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19 on Friday, meaning most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks indoors in public spaces. .
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Friday a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend the use of masks, and instead of considering the count of COVID-19 cases, it will adopt a view holistic view of the risk that the coronavirus poses to a community. Under current guidelines, the use of masks is recommended for people residing in communities with significant or high transmission.
The new metrics will still consider the number of cases, but will also take into account hospitalizations and the capacity of local hospitals, which have improved markedly during the appearance of the omicron variant.
The new policy comes at a time when the Biden administration is focusing on preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, rather than all cases of infection, as part of a strategy adjustment for a new “phase” of the response as the virus becomes endemic.