Dec. 24, 2021 -- President Joe Biden has promised Americans that 500 million coronavirus tests will be available for free, but the kits won’t arrive for several weeks or longer.

The tests are meant to assuage fears about the new Omicron variant. However, the Biden administration hasn’t yet signed a contract to buy the tests, and the website to order them won’t be available until January, according to The New York Times.

It’s also not yet clear how many tests people will be able to order or how quickly they will be shipped once available. The tests won’t likely become available all at once.

“That’s not a plan — it’s a hope,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the newspaper.

“If those tests came in January and February, that could have an impact, but if they are spread out over 10 to 12 months, I’m not sure what kind of impact it is going to have,” she said.

The contracts to purchase the tests could be finalized as soon as next week, administration officials told the newspaper. Manufacturers are trying to ramp up production among the surge in demand for at-home tests as people prepare for the holidays.

“We’re sending them out as fast as we can make them,” said John Koval, a spokesman for Abbott Laboratories, which makes the rapid at-home antigen tests.

Abbott is manufacturing tests around the clock, investing in automated production and hiring more workers, he added. The company will make 70 million tests in January and plans to scale up in upcoming months. Other companies also have announced plans to open new manufacturing facilities and scale up, the newspaper reported.

Biden’s plan is facing competition from state and local governments that promised test kits as well. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced last month that the state would make 500,000 at-home tests available. Colorado began distributing free at-home tests in October, and dozens of cities in Massachusetts are sending out free tests now.

In the likeliest scenario, the Biden administration’s plan will unfold over time, the newspaper reported, and tests will go out to Americans over the next few months.

“Had this been started a long time ago, maybe things would be a bit different,” Michael Mina, M.D., an epidemiologist and the chief science officer of eMed, which distributes at-home tests, told the newspaper.

“But this is where we are now, and we kind of have to deal with it,” he said.

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The New York Times: “Biden Promised 500 Million Tests, but Americans Will have to Wait.”

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