During a White House briefing on Dec. 6, press secretary Jen Psaki scoffed at the notion of distributing COVID-19 tests to every American. On Tuesday, after the White House announced it would buy 500 million tests and mail them to Americans’ homes for free, Psaki said she wished she had added more context to her answer two weeks earlier about the Biden administration’s effort to provide Americans access to at-home testing at no cost.
- Quick question on testing. Last week, obviously the president explained some ramp up in testing. But there's still a lot of countries, like Germany and the UK and South Korea, that basically have massive testing free of charge or for a nominal fee. Why can't that be done in the United States?
JEN PSAKI: Well, I would say first, we have eight tests that have been approved by the FDA here. We see that as the gold standard. Whether or not all of those tests would meet that standard, is a question for the scientists and medical experts but I don't suspect they would. Our objective is to continue to increase accessibility and decrease costs. And if you look at what we've done over the course of time, we've quadrupled the size of our testing plan, we've cut the cost significantly over the past few months, and this effort to push, to ensure insurers are-- you're able to get your tests refunded means 150 million Americans will be able to get free tests.
- That's kind of complicated though. Why not just make them free, and give them out, and have them available everywhere?
JEN PSAKI: Should we just send one to every American?
JEN PSAKI: Then what happens if every American has one test? How much does that cost and then what happens after that?
- A couple of weeks ago, you stood here at the podium when there was a discussion about sending a test to people's homes. And you said, "Should we just send them to every American?" As you've reflected on the change in Omicron here, have you reflected on your tone in that answer?
- Well, Jeff, I would say there's not a day that goes by that I don't leave this podium and wish I would have said something with greater context or more precision or additional information. And that day there was a lot of good questioning on testing. And during that briefing I conveyed a lot of information about our expansion of testing, about the 50 million tests that we were making available, about the 20,000 free testing sites. And should I have included that additional context again in that answer, yes. Going back, I wish I would have done that.
To be clear, so people have accurate information about how it works out there-- which I know is your objective as well as mine-- we're making tests free and accessible without the risk of them going to waste in the home of people who do not want them. So people will go to a website, which again, we will put out there in January when the information is available, and they will be able to request free tests. That's something that is a reflection of the President's commitment to continue re-examining and improving our COVID response, including as it relates to testing.