Days after President Biden publicly promised to provide 500 million free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, his administration has still not signed any contracts — leading experts to deride it as nothing but a “hope.”
The president has already been accused of being caught on the hop when he announced the vague plans for a testing spree only on Tuesday, two years into the pandemic.
Now the New York Times has revealed that contracts have yet to be signed, and are unlikely to be until next week the earliest — with the eventual rollout of his promise potentially taking months after that.
“That’s not a plan — it’s a hope,” Jennifer Nuzzo, who helps track testing trends with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the paper.
Even the website to order the tests will not be up until the new year, the report said — with the at-home test manufacturers already struggling to meet current demand ahead of the White House’s sudden promise.
“If those tests came in January and February, that could have an impact,” Nuzzo said of the alarming escalation of infections from Omicron.
“But if they are spread out over 10 to 12 months, I’m not sure what kind of impact it is going to have,” the epidemiologist warned.
Biden — who repeatedly attacked predecessor Donald Trump over his handling of the pandemic — was derided Tuesday when he tried to claim that nobody had “anticipated” the sudden spread of cases.
The tests are likely still months away from being shipped out to homes — likely in a slow drip rather than all at once — which experts made clear was an unwanted delay given the current alarm.
“Had this been started a long time ago, maybe things would be a bit different,” former Harvard professor Dr. Michael Mina, the chief science officer of eMed, which distributes at-home tests, told The Times.
“But this is where we are now, and we kind of have to deal with it.”
Manufacturers also warned that Biden’s promise did not take into account the struggle to meet demand, which is also stressed.
Abbott Laboratories, a major manufacturer of rapid at-home antigen tests, told the Times it was already facing “unprecedented demand” and “sending them out as fast as we can make them.”
A competing manufacturer, Ellume, said it “stands ready to meet the increased demand” — but not until it can open a new plant in Maryland in the new year.
Biden had insisted the delay was not a “failure,” angrily challenging a reporter who asked “what took so long to ramp up testing?”
“Come on — what took so long?” Biden scoffed, with neither he nor his officials giving a timeline for when they will be sent out.