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Free rapid tests may not arrive in time to significantly blunt East Coast omicron surge

On Jan. 13, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccination-or-testing requirement for large employers. Here’s what to know. (Video: Julie Yoon/The Washington Post)
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Free rapid coronavirus tests will be available online to ship to Americans beginning on Wednesday, but they won’t arrive until seven to 12 days after being ordered. Experts say that timeline may mean the tests arrive too late to significantly blunt the impact of the omicron surge along the Eastern Seaboard, which may be beginning to slow.

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The tests, made available through the website, will be shipped through the Postal Service’s first-class mail. Yet, processing delays may slow down the tests’ arrival at a time when testing centers have reported staggering wait times and Americans have lined up for hours to get tested.

Responding to questions about the lag time for free test delivery, senior administration officials told reporters Friday that there are other means of getting tests, pointing to the Saturday launch of another White House initiative to have private insurance companies cover the cost of up to eight at-home rapid tests per month.

Here’s what to know

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided its most explicit guidance to date Friday on the superior protection offered by N95 masks compared with cloth coverings and other masks.
  • The World Health Organization has recommended two new drugs for patients with covid-19, amid concerns that the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus can thwart many treatments.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department is threatening to rescind stimulus funds from Arizona over the state’s anti-mask school policy.