Is the Postal Service delivering on Biden’s home COVID-19 test promise?

Ansley Peard, News Writer

The Biden administration began distributing free COVID-19 tests to American households on Jan. 19 in response to the Omicron surge. 

Americans are able to request tests online through, which are delivered via first-class mail service. To ensure lasting availability, free tests are limited to 4 per household. Tests typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering. The administration also announced that beginning Jan. 15, private healthcare insurance companies are required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free.

The program is prioritizing availability to households particularly vulnerable to social inequity and communities experiencing disproportionately high COVID-19 mortality rates. In addition, Americans who have limited access to the Internet and need additional support may phone-in orders through a toll-free phone line.

However, in many parts of the country, concerns have been raised by people living in multi-unit buildings like apartments, duplexes or dormitories, who say they haven’t even been able to order the tests. Many say they get an error message saying tests have already been ordered for their address. Additionally, for large households, there are more people than the four available tests.

Senior Siena Hogan lives in a six-person off-campus house and expressed her frustration with the apparent oversight in the administration’s system.

“When the federal government rolled out the at home COVID tests, our housemate ordered them and she wasn’t made aware that the rest of our house would not have access to order them too,” Hogan said in an email to The Wire. “We agreed to share them with the house and only use them if we had symptoms, but given we only received 4 there weren’t enough tests for everyone in our 6 person house.”

According to the spring 2022 COVID-19 protocols listed on Whitman’s website, the College offers COVID-19 testing services for students and employees on a regular basis. Students may receive symptomatic and exposure testing at Welty Student Health Center during weekdays. Students who develop symptoms of COVID-19 and need to be tested on a weekend may call Campus Security, who will deliver an at-home test kit. 

However, Hogan and her housemate Hannah Rudman report that the health center has not been offering symptomatic testing, which particularly affects the pair due to their heightened risk of COVID-19 exposure at their place of work.

“This was frustrating because Whitman is only doing symptomatic testing and Hannah and I both work in high risk settings, both of which are not able to provide testing.”

Whitman currently offers routine surveillance testing of those with vaccine exemptions. In spring of 2021, the College randomly selected about a third of students, staff, and faculty to test each week. Since then, tests are only offered after breaks and to students exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. 

According to a statement released in late January, the U.S. The Postal Service has been seeing a minimal amount of issues similar to that experienced by Hogan and Rudman.

“The Postal Service is seeing very limited cases of addresses that are not registered as multi-unit buildings which could lead to COVID test kit ordering difficulties. This is occurring in a small percentage of orders.”