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January 11, 2022

Pressley Joins Schiff, Sanders, Khanna in Urging Biden to Take Further Steps to Comprehensively and Equitably Expand Access to COVID-19 Rapid Testing

Text of Letter (PDF) 

WASHINGTON, DC Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA), and more than 40 members of the House and Senate on a letter to President Biden calling on his administration to build on its current efforts to expand access to COVID-19 testing by substantially increasing the supply of rapid tests and removing financial and logistical barriers to access for the duration of the pandemic. 

These measures would ensure the United States is mobilizing a more comprehensive public health response as the country enters a new phase of the pandemic, and that rapid testing – one of the most effective tools the federal government has at its disposal – is free, accessible, and convenient for all. 

“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant over the past weeks suggests that Americans are in a dramatically more vulnerable position than we had anticipated being just last month. There is no time to waste, and widespread and affordable access to rapid tests will be an integral part of our country’s public health response to the Omicron variant and through the duration of the pandemic,” the members wrote in the letter. 

On December 21, the Biden administration announced plans to purchase 500 million antigen, or “rapid” COVID-19 tests, and develop a system to distribute them nationwide at no cost. However, the rapid transmission of the Omicron variant over the past several weeks and its increased ability to spread to fully-vaccinated individuals indicate far more testing capabilities are needed, and will be needed for the foreseeable future, as well as policies that ensure testing is easy, free, and accessible to everyone. 

“[A]s the Omicron variant spreads and we enter an ominous and unprecedented next phase of this pandemic, it is critical that we ensure these efforts meet the severity of the moment. We strongly encourage you to take additional, immediate steps to eliminate existing barriers to COVID-19 rapid tests and ensure robust access to free over-the-counter rapid tests throughout the country for the duration of the pandemic,” the members continued. 

Specifically, members are calling on the administration to: 

  • Manufacture enough tests that every American could take at least one rapid test per week. Many public health experts recommend regular surveillance testing – some as frequently as two times per week. If the United States were to adopt similar recommendations, it would need approximately 2.3 billion tests per month – several times the 500 million the administration has committed to purchasing and distributing for free.
  • Ensure home test delivery is accessible to all. The administration announced plans to set up a website where individuals can order free COVID-19 rapid tests delivered to their homes. While this is a critical step, the administration should develop additional methods, such as a national hotline number, so those without reliable access to broadband internet can participate.
  • Make regular testing more convenient by meeting individuals where they already are. To ensure individuals are testing regularly to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe, the administration should work to make free rapid tests widely available in pharmacies, grocery stores, post offices local businesses, and other public locations that people frequent in their day-to-day lives.
  • Make it easier for private health plan enrollees to be reimbursed for over-the-counter tests. While the administration’s new requirements that insurers reimburse individuals for at-home tests are critical, at-home kits cost approximately $14 to $34 and the reimbursement process can be time-consuming, which together may dissuade individuals or families who are struggling financially from purchasing these tests. The administration should take these hurdles into consideration as they draft their upcoming guidance. 

The letter is co-signed by Representatives Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (D-Ore.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-Va.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Joseph D. Morelle (D-N.Y.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), Marie Newman (D-Ill.), and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), as well as Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).