WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Monday his administration has more work to do on testing as patients reported having to wait days for results and at-home tests flew off store shelves in areas where cases are surging from the omicron variant.
“Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do and we’re doing it,” Biden said during a video conference with governors.
Testing centers — including those in New York and Washington, D.C., where cases have been spiking — said patients were having to wait in long lines to get tested and then as many as five to seven days for results. A number of retailers said at-home rapid tests were out of stock with supply extremely limited.
Biden said Monday he will continue using the Defense Production Act to produce as many tests as possible, and starting in two weeks private insurance will reimburse people for the cost of purchasing an at-home test.
The administration has been pushing to increase the availability of at-home tests. Biden announced last week that the federal government would be making 500 million free at-home tests available, with the first tests ready to be sent out in January. But administration officials haven’t said how long it would take for them to reach that total number. The U.S. currently has a supply of roughly 200 million tests a month.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, told Biden on the call that one of the biggest issues his state is facing is a shortage of rapid tests.
“We also as governors are getting pressure to do more and the need is great to do more in terms of the rapid test and the availability of it,” Hutchinson said.
The ability for Americans to get quick test results will not only help slow the spread of the virus but will also be increasingly crucial for patients to get access to new antiviral treatments from Merck and Pfizer that have shown effectiveness at reducing hospitalizations and deaths.