SSN Commentary

It’s Time to Send Every American Free At-Home COVID Tests

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Duke University
San Francisco State University

Originally published as "It’s Time to Send Every American Free At-Home COVID Tests," Washington Monthly, December 23, 2021.

At a White House press briefing on December 11, a reporter asked President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, why the U.S. has failed to provide free COVID-19 tests to the public. Evidently irritated, Psaki shot back, “Should we just send one to every American?” Well, yes, as a matter of fact, they should.

Psaki’s comment was widely critiqued as glib and out of touch; in the week and a half since, the White House has pivoted its emphasis—first, to offer 50 million free tests to uninsured Americans, and now, as of Tuesday, to make 500 million free tests available to all Americans beginning in January. As Biden acknowledged in his Tuesday press conference, we are not where we need to be with national capacity for testing; this policy will be a step in the right direction. But it’s not the same as ensuring that every American has access to free COVID tests.