Update January 18th, 12:15PM ET: The site and ordering page are live now, one day earlier than expected.
The White House has announced that people will be able to order free COVID-19 tests from COVIDTests.gov starting on Wednesday, January 19th. This follows a promise that the government would be setting up a website to distribute 500 million tests, which President Joe Biden announced in December.
You’ll only have to put in two pieces of info to get a test shipped to you — your name and address. In its announcement, the White House said the tests will ship through the US Postal Service “within 7–12 days of ordering.” Currently, the limit is four tests per residential address.
On Wednesday of this week, a White House advisor said the site “should be online by this weekend.” Technically, the government has made that deadline — you can visit COVIDTests.gov right now, though it’s currently showing a landing page letting you know that tests will be available Wednesday and that you won’t have to put in a credit card number to get one.
The USPS isn’t just responsible for getting the tests to people. It was also tapped to develop a website that will have to deal with potentially millions of people trying to get a test at the same time, according to Protocol. The report cites a government official who said that it’s “taking our website launch very seriously” and that it “didn’t start from scratch” building the site. The US Digital Service will also be helping to launch the site and provide support when needed, Protocol says.
Given the government’s less-than-stellar reputation with launching healthcare websites, there’s some skepticism about whether the site will be able to handle the traffic — and some have rightfully pointed out that some of the most vulnerable people could have difficulties getting online and navigating a website. A statement from the White House says that you’ll also be able to call a hotline to order tests if you’re unable to access the website and that the government will “work with national and local community-based organizations to support the nation’s hardest-hit and highest-risk communities in requesting tests.”