The administration said 500 million tests will be available for households to order when the website launches next week, but will limit orders to four free tests per residential address, “to promote broad access” to tests.
USPS will deliver all orders in the continental United States through its first-class package service and will deliver shipments to Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories, as well as shipments to military installations and diplomatic posts, via priority mail.
USPS is also partnering with the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) to provide the digital infrastructure for COVIDTests.gov.
“We didn’t start from scratch. The Postal Service is an important partner here. They already have a website that does sell goods to the public and has for quite some time,” a senior administration official said.
The official said USDS has been conducting load tests for the website to ensure it can scale to meet demand. USDS, which was created in 2014 following a rocky launch to HealthCare.gov, also has monitoring tools and response playbooks in place for the website.
“Of course, every website launch comes with some risk. We’re quite cognizant of that. But we have the best tech teams across our administration, across USPS who have been working hard to make this a success. And we think we’re well-positioned to do that,” the senior administration official said.
The administration will also launch a call line for individuals to order tests over the phone, if they’re unable to place an order on the website.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that Postal Service leadership “has expressed confidence and an interest in playing the role in delivering tests to people across the country,” and pointed to strong USPS on-time delivery metrics during its peak holiday season as a sign that the agency is up to the task.
“We appreciate the confidence the administration is trusting in us to support this important mission,” DeJoy said.
The American Postal Workers Union signed a memorandum of understanding with USPS management this week that would allow postal clerks covered under the union’s collective bargaining agreement to package and label parcels that contain free COVID tests.
An APWU official told Federal News Network that USPS expects to deliver approximately 2 million packages containing these free COVID tests each week.
APWU clerks will complete this package fulfillment work, which the memo defines as “new work” for bargaining unit employees, at 43 postal facilities throughout the country.
The memo also gives USPS the flexibility to keep temporary workers on the job beyond its peak holiday season, to ensure the agency has the workforce capacity needed to carry out this project.