Issues with ordering government's free COVID tests already raising equity concerns

Tuesday was the beta launch for the government's issuing of at-home tests, with 4 tests going to every household address.

ByRyan Curry KGO logo
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Some Bay Area residents encounter problems ordering COVID tests
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Some Bay Area residents say ordering their free COVID-19 tests from the federal government has been a challenge, already raising concerns of equity.

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Some California residents say ordering their free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government has been a challenge.

Allison Landa went online Tuesday to order hers. When she put in her address, USPS says someone already placed an order for her address.

"I figured maybe our neighbor had done it," she said. "I asked my husband too and he said he didn't order any. It was strange."

Landa and her family live in a duplex in Berkeley.

RELATED: Some health experts say free at-home COVID tests are too little, too late

Tuesday was the beta launch for the government's issuing of at-home tests. Four tests will go to every household address. However, many who live in multi-family homes, apartments, college housing and others are seeing the same message as Landa.

"COVID tests are almost like diamonds right now," Landa said. "We went to the USPS help page and submitted a help request. I feel like they are trying to push these out as best they can."

Some hope this is just an online issue that can be fixed.

Dr. David Magnus, a biomedical ethics professor at Stanford University, says if this doesn't get fixed, it could become an inequality problem.

"Logistics of this are leading to the same thing we have seen over and over again in the pandemic," he said. "Which is most likely these tests will wind up in single family homes, and not homes that actually have a higher chance of catching COVID."

RELATED: White House soft-launches COVID-19 test request website

Magnus says the focus should be on making tests available to lower income communities. He thinks every resident should get a test, and not households.

He even thinks making post offices as sites where people can pick up testing kits can help the problem.

"Studies show most Americans live close to a USPS facility," he said. "There is work that shows people would be willing to travel to these locations."