President Joe Biden announced last month that the federal government will buy half a billion COVID-19 rapid test kits and distribute them free to people to use at home. But despite high public demand for tests, it will still be several more weeks before these kits are available to be shipped, White House officials said.

DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE THE TESTS?

Not yet. This week marked the close of an initial bidding period for test manufacturers to apply to the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services for contracts to make the tests. The first contract, worth $51.6 million, was awarded Thursday and a second for 13.3 million tests was assigned Friday. Additional contracts will be signed in the coming weeks, officials said. All 500 million kits will not arrive at the same time. They will be delivered in batches over months.

WHEN WILL THE TEST KITS BE DELIVERED?

The federal government is expected to get delivery of the first batch of tests “over the next week or so,” according to White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients. Americans will start receiving them “in the coming weeks” he added.

MY DRUGSTORE DOESN’T HAVE ANY TESTS. HOW CAN I GET A FREE KIT FROM THE GOVERNMENT?

You’ll go to a new government website to request a kit, but the site won’t be operating until after the first batch of test kits has been delivered to the government. “We’re obviously not going to put the website up until there are tests available,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month.

The Postal Service will handle fulfillment and shipment of tests to Americans’ doorsteps, officials said.

WHICH HOME TEST WILL I GET?

It’s unclear. But Psaki noted that the Food and Drug Administration has approved several different brands of rapid home tests that are currently on the market. While they are packaged differently and may use slightly different procedures, officials said, their mechanisms of detection and effectiveness are generally the same.

WILL I BE LIMITED TO ONE TEST OR CAN I REQUEST MULTIPLE?

To be determined. Officials are also working on policies for how frequently people can request a free test. That’s expected to come with a new focus on educating Americans about best practices for when they should take a test.

WHY IS BIDEN BUYING THESE TEST KITS?

It represents an acknowledgement by the president that the administration needs to do more to increase access to COVID-19 testing, which is an important tool to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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