As Omicron grows in the United States, so has the need for rapid testing – a painfully obvious observation if you’re one of the millions of small businesses who want to keep their workers safe, while keeping the lights on. The problem is, testing is scarce. President Biden wants to solve this problem.
In an announcement Thursday, Biden said his administration planned to procure an additional 500 million home Covid-19 rapid tests to meet demand across the country. In December, he made a similar announcement calling for the distribution of 500 million tests.
“This means a billion tests in total to meet future demand,” the president said at the White House on Thursday.
For Biden, the heat is very present. The country reported around 1.5 million new cases on Monday, a new record according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, bringing the seven-day average to 754,000 new cases per day. And as a result, rapid tests are flying off drugstore shelves as they struggle to keep them in stock and the lines at free testing sites grow longer.
So how do you get the free rapid tests? By mail.
In the coming weeks, the administration plans to put online a website and phone number through which people can request the free tests, according to the. the Wall Street newspaper. The administration did not provide a date when they planned to start shipping them, so the timing is not entirely clear. It is also not known how many tests a person can request. Currently, private insurers are required to cover the cost of up to eight home coronavirus tests per member per month.
With such a hazy schedule, it’s no wonder some companies are picking up on the testing shortage. At JPMorgan Chase, employees can order rapid in-home tests from an internal company site. Google makes full-time employees available free home tests worth over $ 70 each. Employees can also receive up to 20 rapid tests per month, even if they are away from the office. These companies would have been able to contract with individual manufacturers, before Omicron’s boom. According to Bloomberg, Google gets its rapid tests from Cue Health, a California-based diagnostics company, and its PCR tests from another testing company, BioIQ.
If you are trying to provide a large number of tests for your employees, you can wait for the tests promised by Biden. It may also be worth going straight to the source and contacting a test manufacturer rather than individual pharmacies.
Keep in mind that rapid tests are not the ultimate solution for Covid testing. They are generally less precise than PCR tests. If you test negative on a rapid test, in some cases you may still be positive on a PCR test, which is much more sensitive. Rapid tests may also fail to detect positive cases in people who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from Covid-19 because they may produce less virus. This means that you may want to instruct employees who have been exposed to the virus to wait a few extra days for PCR test results or to take a second rapid test before returning to work.
Plus, testing is likely to play an even bigger role in the workplace, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employers of at least 100 employees. This rule, which came into force on Monday, required employers to impose vaccination against Covid-19 on their staff or to submit to weekly tests.