Biden’s Deals for Mail-In Tests Tap Stockpiles, Make No New Kits

Jan. 11, 2022, 6:06 PM

The Biden administration’s contracts to make 500 million free coronavirus tests available to Americans will draw down existing stockpiles of the kits and don’t call for making more, a federal health official said Tuesday.

The contracts were signed in recent days to buy Covid-19 tests from Goldbelt Security LLC, Revival Health, Inc., Medea Inc. and Atlantic Trading LLC. Before the pandemic, Medea sold vodka, while Goldbelt Security describes itself as a product distribution and logistics company.

The reason for the unusual supply choice: each of the companies has a stockpile of unused Covid-19 tests, Dawn O’Connell, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for preparedness and response, told a Senate panel Tuesday. This will allow the Biden administration to begin distributing tests to Americans by the end of January.

That’s “why you’re seeing contracts with warehouses and not with testing manufacturers,” O’Connell said.

The unusual deals illustrate the complexities of Biden’s latest plan to boost the nation’s supply of free tests to help combat surging cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. The U.S. is facing a shortage of tests and long lines persist at testing centers across the country. Retailers, schools, and local governments are having trouble keeping at-home kits in stock.

It’s not clear how many of Biden’s half-billion tests will be available in the coming weeks, though O’Connell reiterated Biden’s promise to make a portion of them available to Americans by the end of January. Medea drew criticism last year when it won a separate $50 million contract to supply masks, despite having no experience making them.

The White House will release details on how to order them by the end of this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, adding that Biden’s team will finish signing deals to buy the tests next week.

—With assistance from Paul Murphy and Alex Ruoff

To contact the reporter on this story: Courtney Rozen in Washington at crozen@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn@bloomberglaw.com

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