Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed Tuesday that she is leading three dozen House Democrats in urging the Biden administration to improve its distribution program for a billion free at-home Covid-19 tests to better serve large households and residents of multifamily units.
"Our country can only be as safe from Covid as our most vulnerable communities are kept safe."
The New York Democrat and 36 other lawmakers sent a letter to President Joe Biden last week, as his administration launched Covidtests.gov for people nationwide to order four free tests per household. Those without access to the website can order through the hotline at 1-800-232-0233.
However, as the letter highlights, "families that reside outside of a traditional single-family housing unit are having trouble ordering testing kits because the online portal does not allow more than one order per address."
When the site to order tests went up, people who live in multifamily buildingswhere about one-third of Americans livequickly began reporting that they were unable to place orders. "At-home Covid-19 tests have already been ordered for this address," reads the error message, suggesting that someone else in the building has already requested the tests. Also not accepted: P.O. boxes and buildings associated with commercial activity.
Due to housing conditions in urban areas like Ocasio-Cortez's New York City districtwhich includes portions of the Bronx and Queenscity-dwellers are disproportionately impacted.
U.S. Postal Service spokesperson David Partenheimer acknowledged the issue to CNET.
"This is occurring in a small percentage of orders," he said in an email last week. "For assistance in the ordering process the USPS recommends filing a service request at https://emailus.usps.com/s/the-postal-store-inquiry or contacting our help desk at 1-800-ASK-USPS, to help address the issue."
The Democrats' letter states that since the rollout, "we have received a large number of reports from constituents regarding their inability to request Covid-19 test kits as a result of not living in a single-family household."
The letter points out that "families who reside in basement apartments, renovated multifamily units, and multigenerational family households are often at the highest risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19. Families living in these nonsingle family dwellings are also least likely to be able to isolate in the chance of illness."
"Thus, their ability to obtain tests is imperative to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe," the letter adds. "Our country can only be as safe from Covid as our most vulnerable communities are kept safe. "
"Given that the policy limiting one order of Covid-19 test kits per dwelling has fallen short of ensuring access and equity," the Democrats are calling on the administration "to allow families to list the number of members in their household and an associated surname, so that families who live in basement units or multifamily residences can access the appropriate number of tests."
The lawmakers' demand for reform comes as Covid-19 case numbers nationwide are higher than any previous surge, hospitalizations "appear to be reaching a national peak," and deaths continue to rise, according to The New York Times' tracker.