Kilili: COVID tests now available for the Marianas

Jan 20, 2022

NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS – The Biden administration is intensifying efforts to make COVID-19 tests available to every American household, including in the Marianas, using funds Congress provided in the American Rescue Plan. Four free tests per household may now be ordered online at https://www.covidtests.gov/. People in the Marianas have already successfully applied to receive the tests in the mail. Later this week a toll-free phone number will also go live for people who do not have access to the internet or have problems entering their shipping address, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Constituents are reporting that the website works and that they are able to provide their shipping address,” Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho said. “But the congressional office is also learning that there are problems with the new system; and we are reporting those issues directly to Health and Human Services, which is in charge of the new testing program.”

The Biden administration has initially purchased 500 million at-home, rapid tests to mail free to every American household that asks for them. “As the program was gearing up, we told HHS we were concerned that without residential mail delivery in the Marianas the website might not ship here,” Congressman Sablan said. “But people who enter their U.S. Postal Service post office box number in the Marianas are successfully ordering tests.” The tests begin shipping on January 24.

A problem has arisen for those in the Marianas who use a private mailbox company for mail delivery. “Constituents are telling us the website sees those ‘PMB’ addresses as commercial rather than residential, and is rejecting the orders,” Sablan said. About one thousand individuals in the Marianas use a PMB mailing address.

“The toll-free number that will be available later this week should help anyone who has a PMB address or is encountering other problems with the website,” Congressman Sablan said. “And, of course, your congressional office is always here to help with getting the free tests.”

Providing free, at-home tests directly to every American household is part of a larger strategy to make it easier to get tested for COVID. The Biden administration is also stocking Federally Qualified Health Centers and some 10,000 pharmacies nationwide with test kits. And last week the White House announced distribution of millions of tests each month to school districts and childcare centers so every student, teacher, and staff person can be tested. Congregate settings are also eligible. Registration is available at https://letsendthistogether.com/.

The Biden administration has already ordered an additional 500 million tests and intends to continue making supplies readily available as part of the effort to stop the spread of the disease.

“A nationwide program is going to have some glitches at the beginning,” Sablan said. “A household of one person will get four tests. A household of ten people will get four tests. At first there will be some inconsistencies, just as there were with vaccine distribution.

“The point is to get as many tests as possible out there for people to use. As the program continues and scales up it should get easier and easier to get tested.”

Health and Human Services recommends the tests be used by persons who feel symptomatic or who are gathering with those at risk of serious illness because of age or preexisting medical condition or with those who are unvaccinated.

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