Marisa Diaz y Diaz doesn’t understand why her order for the free federal home Covid-19 tests isn’t going through.
The Uniondale, New York, resident rents a single-family home from a friend. But when she entered her information on covidtests.gov on Tuesday, she got an error message stating that the tests were already ordered for her address. After confirming that her friend did not place an order, she tried several more times without success.
A high school Spanish teacher, Diaz y Diaz has access to weekly testing but wants to have several tests at home in case she needs to visit her elderly mom in Pennsylvania in a hurry.
“I always test before I see her,” said Diaz y Diaz, 50. “But what if there’s an emergency? It’s good to have a kit at home.”
Thousands of readers have contacted CNN since the federal site, covidtests.gov, opened on Tuesday. Americans can order four home tests per residential address, with shipping expected to start in late January.
The program is part of a Biden administration initiative to curb the coronavirus pandemic in the US. The White House will distribute 1 billion home Covid-19 tests, which have been in short supply at many retailers and online vendors.
The majority of CNN readers praised the ordering process, saying it was easy and swift.
But many ran into roadblocks. Like Diaz y Diaz, most received messages saying that orders were already placed for their address, but others said they couldn’t get the tests delivered to PO boxes, mobile home parks, boats or rural addresses. Still others said the US Postal Service didn’t recognize their address or disqualified them because they run small businesses from their homes.
Jim Rice lives in a small apartment building in Cape Coral, Florida. After reading that the website opened on Tuesday, he tried to sign up. He suspects one of his neighbors already used the site because he got an error message saying the tests were already ordered for his address.
Though Rice has been vaccinated and received his booster shot, many of his co-workers have not. Since he’s had a hard time finding home tests in stores and heard of long lines at testing sites, he wants to have a few tests on hand in case he starts feeling sick.
“I not only don’t want to get Covid, I don’t want to pass it on to anybody else either,” said Rice, 57, a graphic designer.
The White House told CNN earlier in the week that a “small percentage” of people in apartment buildings are contending with the error that tests were already ordered for their address if other tenants already used the site.
USPS working on solutions
The Postal Service, which is handling the delivery of the tests, told CNN Thursday that it is continuing to work on solutions for those who have experienced issues.
Consumers who have encountered problems can file a service request or contact the Postal Service help desk at 800-ASK-USPS.
Nanette Jackson, who lives in a single-family house with her husband in Anchorage, Alaska, filled out a request on Thursday after getting the “already ordered” error message. She hopes the Postal Service can resolve the problem because the couple wants to get tested before visiting his elderly parents in February.
The city is currently experiencing a surge, which concerns her, and it’s very difficult to find home tests in stores. If she’s unable to get the free federal tests, Jackson will try to sign up for a testing site.
“I don’t want to take any risks,” said Jackson, 62, who works for the state Department of Natural Resources.
Americans who can’t access the website or need additional help placing an order can call 800-232-0233, according to an FAQ section on covidtests.gov posted Thursday. The White House announced the hotline on Friday morning.
But the number wasn’t of much help on Thursday to Pat Hughes, 77, who lives in a retirement RV resort in Gold Canyon, Arizona. When he told the automated attendant his address, he received the same message he did when he tried to use the website – that someone had already ordered tests for his residence. He tried to file a service request, but it didn’t go through.
Hughes and his wife want the home tests so they can feel more comfortable traveling to Minnesota next month to see their granddaughter play in the seventh grade state basketball tournament.
A retired IT systems engineer, Hughes is disappointed that the Postal Service didn’t test the website in advance to catch and solve these errors that are now plaguing him and his neighbors.
“Everybody I’ve talked to in the park that has tried to do it has gotten the same rejection that I got,” said Hughes, noting that he’s also not able to get free tests from retailers since Medicare is not reimbursing its enrollees.
Kathleen Schinkel, 64, unsuccessfully tried to order the tests to her Princeton, Texas, house on Wednesday. She then spent 16 minutes on the helpline on Thursday and was finally connected to a customer service representative. However, the woman was unable to figure out why the system said an order had already been placed.
“She emailed me more links to try, but quite frankly, I am out of time and patience right now!” Schinkel, a retired jewelry company owner, wrote in an email. “Aaaarrrggghhh!”