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Website to get free COVID tests launches early but not without a few bumps

The Biden administration on Tuesday quietly launched its website for Americans to request free...
The Biden administration on Tuesday quietly launched its website for Americans to request free at-home COVID-19 tests, a day before the site was scheduled to launch.((AP Photo/David Dermer, File))
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 4:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii was part of an early rollout of the Biden Administration’s efforts to get families free at-home COVID tests, but a lack of communication caused some confusion.

The website to get the free tests ― COVIDTests.gov ― went live for beta testing Tuesday, a day early. But on Monday, people in the islands starting getting texts that they could sign up.

It turns out the White House was quietly testing the website, where people can order four free tests.

Text messages went out to residents and organizations that serve the community, but some thought it was a scam.

“As AAPIs we qualify to start ordering 2 days before the rest of the county,” said the text.

The text gave a link to the National Association of Community Health Workers.

“Because we AAPIs aren’t found in one zip code, please send this zip code (15207) just to begin the process,” it added.

Hawaii providers told HNN they thought the link was legitimate. The state health department said it was looking into it, but that it was left out of the federal process.

“The federal government sent out a certain distribution list to start beta testing so we are fortunate that in Hawaii quite a bit of us got that beta test. It’s an opportunity to get free tests from Washington through the USPS,” said Kuhio Lewis, CEO for Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

The Biden administration says the site went live Tuesday to identify kinks.

“We can’t guarantee their won’t be a bug or two, but the best tech teams across the administration and the postal service are working hard to make this a success,” said Jen Psaki, President Biden’s spokesperson.

One bug was that some users found that orders made by different people living in the same apartment building got a rejection notice as a duplicate.

Lewis said since many Hawaii households have multiple family members, access to tests is critical during the Omicron surge.

“This thing (COVID) is not sparing anyone,” he said.

Americans can order up to four kits per address on COVIDtests.gov. Once ordered, the tests are supposed to be mailed to doorsteps within 7 to 12 days.

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