Then: Silly, Mailing Free Rapid Tests To Americans Would Be ‘Costly and Wasteful’. Now: Free Tests Mailed To Americans Requesting One
[guest post by Dana]
[Ed. Because it’s Christmas week and visions of sugar-plums dancing in our heads are so deliciously distracting, posting may be light.]
What a difference two weeks makes…
President Joe Biden will announce a plan on Tuesday to distribute 500 million free at-home rapid tests to Americans beginning in January as part of an attempt to double down on the spread of a transmissible variant that has hit the U.S. distressingly close to the holidays.
Biden’s new efforts come as the omicron variant became the most dominant COVID strain in the country Monday, accounting for nearly three-quarters of all cases, and just as travel kicks off at nearly pre-pandemic levels for the holiday season.
The free at-home rapid tests will be delivered by mail to Americans who request them, a senior administration official told reporters…marking a slightly different approach from European countries that chose to send tests to all residents.
Americans will need to request the tests via an official website which will be available in January. While this is good news, many are wondering why this hasn’t already been a priority for the administration. They certainly had been warned about what was to come:
Dr. Sam Scarpino, managing director of pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation and a member of their Pandemic Prevention Institute, said the government could have seen this coming.
“Scientists have been warning about the potential for new variants to come along for a year now or more. And we’ve known about omicron since the day before Thanksgiving. It’s been weeks at this point,” he said.
And as recently as two weeks ago, Press Secretary Jen Psaki scoffed at the suggestion of every American having a rapid test mailed to their home because it would be “costly and wasteful”:
Q And I have one quick question on testing. Last week, obviously, the President explained some ramp-up in testing, but there are still a lot of countries, like Germany and the UK and South Korea, that basically have massive testing, free of charge or for a nominal fee. Why can’t that be done in the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, you know, we have eight tests that have been approved by the FDA here. We see that as the gold standard. Whether or not all of those tests would meet that standard is a question for the scientists and medical experts, but I don’t suspect they would.
Our objective is to continue to increase accessibility and decrease costs. And if you look at what we’ve done over the course of time, we’ve quadrupled the size of our testing plan, we’ve cut the cost significantly over the past few months, and this effort to push — to ensure — ensures you’re able to get your tests refunded means 150 million Americans will be able to get free tests.
Q That’s kind of complicated though. Why not just make them free and give them out to — and have them available everywhere?
MS. PSAKI: Should we just send one to every American?
Q Maybe. I’m just asking you — there are other countries —
MS. PSAKI: Then what — then what happens if you — if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?
Q I don’t know. All I know is that other countries seem to be making them available for — in greater quantities, for less money.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we share the same objective, which is to make them less expensive and more accessible. Right?
Ultimately, though, this:
Many are ridiculing this dismissive and out of touch take by @PressSec on Covid tests.
But for me it’s the ‘how much does it cost’ part.
We spent BILLIONS AND BILLIONS on vaccines that we would never consider charging for.
Tests should be no different.pic.twitter.com/bf7JnpYTbH
— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) December 7, 2021