The White House is facing questions over its plans to increase testing for COVID-19, which include reimbursing the costs for tests but not mailing them to every resident as some foreign countries are doing.
"Our objective is to make tests accessible, to make sure that people who want to get tested can get tested through any means they choose, and to make sure they're free for everyone in America," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
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Reporters repeatedly asked why the Biden administration wasn't going further by mailing tests to all citizens, echoing policies in places like Singapore and the United Kingdom.
"Why wouldn't it be a good idea to just send them to all American homes?" one reporter asked. "It seems like that would make tests more readily available, to have them just sitting in your kitchen somewhere."
Psaki pointed to the several testing sites available now, such as schools, pharmacies, and doctor's offices, saying the administration wants to meet people where they are and that tests are available at more than 20,000 locations nationwide already. The Biden administration has announced a plan to reimburse people for tests, which provoked criticism the policy doesn't go far enough.
On Monday, Psaki asked rhetorically whether the White House should "just send one [test] out to every American" and appeared to downplay the impact of such a move. She reiterated that point the following day.
"Our approach is not to send everyone in the country a test just to have millions of tests go unused when we know others can make use of them," she said. "We have made an assessment about how to make them free and available to Americans across the country. That's absolutely our objective, and we'll continue to build on it."
Testing has become a hot topic after the emergence of the latest COVID variant, omicron, which has quickly spread across the world after first being identified in South Africa. With families preparing to gather together for Christmas and New Year's celebrations, there is concern cases will rise without widespread testing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone to take a COVID test before indoor gatherings, even if they are vaccinated or don't have symptoms. Tests can cost between $14 and $30, which would be paid by an individual and reimbursed later by their insurance company.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients was asked earlier Tuesday about the idea of sending tests to every house, as he pointed to possible waste to explain why it wasn't being pursued.
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"We do want to make sure people have access to free tests," he said. "Our approach is not to send everyone a test independent of their need or desire to get tested. We believe a more effective approach is more nuanced than that."