USPS Is Finally Letting Customers Do This, Effective Immediately
If you've been waiting to make this order, now's your chance.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is constantly evolving its delivery process while dealing with staffing shortages and budget cuts. Those changes have not always been met favorably: In late 2021, the USPS started slowing its delivery of certain packages, and complaints of mail delays haven't let up. It's not all bad news, though—the agency just announced one exciting update that might appease naysayers. Read on to find out what the USPS is now finally letting you do.
The USPS is now letting people order more free COVID tests.
The USPS has been responsible for shipping and delivering free at-home COVID tests since Jan. 2022, as part of an initiative by President Joe Biden. For nearly two months, people around the U.S. have only been able to sign up for one package (with four tests included in each package) per household through a Postal Service portal. But that limit has been lifted.
The order form on the USPS website now says that everyone in the U.S. is eligible for another round of free tests. "U.S. households can place a total of two separate orders for free, at-home COVID-19 rapid tests (four tests per order)," the Postal Service states. "If an order was previously placed for your address, you can place a second order now."
The White House just announced the expansion of this initiative.
On March 7, the White House released a video of President Biden notifying people in the U.S. that the USPS portal had been updated to allow two separate test requests from every household. "Today, I want you to know that if you've already ordered free tests, you can now order another round, shipping directly to your home and for free, so we're prepared no matter what COVID-19 brings," he said. "Go visit covidtests.gov. Get your free test today."
According to officials, it appears that the government had always planned to release more free tests in time. The Biden Administration said it had committed to buying a total of one billion at-home COVID tests to distribute to people in the U.S. for free when it first announced the initiative, but only 500 million tests were set to be available for order when the USPS portal first opened on Jan. 18.
"The way that we set this up was to make sure that every household who wanted these tests could get them before we made a second round available," Tom Inglesby, the White House testing coordinator, told NPR.
You should receive your tests more quickly this time around.
The USPS received a bit of backlash in February over delivery delays for the first round of free COVID tests. The Postal Service said tests were supposed to be shipped within seven to 12 days after being ordered, but according to NPR, some tests were not sent out within this window because of a manufacturing delay.
But officials say that this won't be the case with the next shipments. "As we open up this second round, we are going to be shipping immediately," Inglesby told the news outlet. "We have a fairly substantial stock of new tests ready to be shipped, so we expect orders to be delivered quickly."
The USPS has already sent out more than 270 million free tests so far.
More than half of U.S. households ordered tests in January and February of this year, as reported by NPR. On March 2, the USPS revealed that it had already delivered more than 68 million test kit packages with four tests per kit to households across the nation, meaning a total of over 270 million COVID tests have already been claimed.
But the program was created when the coronavirus was a much more prevalent problem—fueled by the heightened spread of the Omicron variant in late 2021 and early 2022—and tests were harder to come by. Case numbers have dropped significantly since then, falling by more than 28 percent in the last week alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Biden Administration is not planning to pull back the program, however. According to NPR, officials are emphasizing a getting back to normal phase, but pushing free tests in case a new variant does come along and increases infections again. At the same time, Inglesby told the news outlet that the federal government is purchasing all these tests "to keep the testing infrastructure strong."