White House says it will set up a website to distribute 500 million free COVID tests
President Biden said today that Americans will soon be able to order free COVID tests from a government-run website, which is not yet available. “We’ll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home,” he said of the 500 million at-home tests the government is purchasing to combat the Omicron surge.
Details on this website are murky, however. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said today that “We will have more information as it is available including what the website looks like,” she said, adding, “We will make the website available as soon as these tests are available.“
President Biden also said that his administration is working with Google to make it easier for Americans to find COVID-19 testing locations. “We’ve arranged for it to be easier for you to find a free COVID testing site near you on Google,” he said, adding that people could just enter the terms “COVID test near me,” into a Google search bar “and you can find a number of different locations nearby where you can get tested.”
Google spokesperson Lara Levin said in an email to The Verge that the arrangements the president described were part of ongoing work the company has been doing since last year “to make testing (and then vaccine) info available in Search and Maps.” She added that the company continues to make updates as new data becomes available, and said further “We’re constantly making improvements to the COVID information we provide on Search and Maps. We recently made an update that added info about thousands more free testing sites, and have been working with the administration and government agencies on these efforts.” Levin did not offer any specific details on how Google and the Biden administration had worked together, however.
The various promises about websites and testing called to mind remarks from former President Trump, who made grand claims in March 2020 about the government was working with Google on a website to provide coronavirus testing at retail pharmacies like Walgreens.
“Google is going to develop a website — it’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past — to determine if a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location,” Trump said at a press conference on March 13th, 2020, adding that Google had “1,700 engineers” working on the project. That was news to Google; the company told The Verge shortly after Trump’s speech that it was not working with the government on a nationwide COVID testing website. Indeed, Google never delivered such a website; Trump had inflated work done by Verily, a separate company under Google parent company Alphabet. Verily eventually launched a website launched as a limited trial in the Bay Area; it was later phased out.
Biden, for his part, did his best to distance the current situation from the calamitous early days of the pandemic and the disorganized Trump administration response.
“This is not March of 2020,” Biden said during today’s speech. “Two hundred million people are vaccinated. We’re prepared. We know more.”
Hopefully this time the website actually arrives.
Update December 21st, 5:49PM ET: Added additional statement from Google about recent updates.