Glitch in new USPS COVID test website won’t let some apartment dwellers order kits

At-home COVID-19 tests kits sit on a table before being handed out at a distribution site, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in Youngstown, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

At-home COVID-19 tests kits sit on a table before being handed out at a distribution site, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in Youngstown, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

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Just hours after its launch, the U.S. Postal Service website offering free, at-home COVID-19 test kits has hit its first major snag: The website appears not to recognize some residences within multi-unit buildings as individual households, instead counting a single street address as a household.

The test-ordering process should be easy: You visit and enter your name and address. Each household can receive four tests. For those living in a single-family household, the order goes through at no cost, and the tests should arrive in a couple of weeks.

That’s not what happened for Brian Snelling. The Francisville resident rushed to complete his order as soon as he saw on a friend’s Instagram page that the site had launched on Tuesday morning.

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“It’s been hard to get tests,” said Snelling, who is 27. “I ordered some before Christmas, and they have yet to arrive.”

But after entering his address as it appears on his mail, an error message popped up, noting that his address had already ordered its allotment of four tests. Snelling knew that couldn’t be right – he lives alone.

Snelling had moved quickly when he saw the news that the site was live. But apparently, not fast enough to beat his neighbors.

Snelling’s unit is one of three in his building, and he figured one of his neighbors had already requested their tests and the site counted their order for the whole building. He also wondered if his building wasn’t properly zoned as a multi-unit building.

Sure enough, Snelling checked in with his neighbors, who he’s friendly with. Those in Unit 1 had requested tests, and the order went through without a hitch. Those in Unit 3 had the same problem Snelling did.

And city records show Snelling’s building is registered as a single-family home, though it contains three residential units.

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It’s unclear whether a similar zoning explanation could also be behind the complaints of apartment dwellers across the country, who have been sounding the alarm since the new at-home test site launched earlier Tuesday.

A USPS spokesperson said the issue was minor.

“The Postal Service is seeing very limited cases of addresses that are not registered as multi-unit buildings which could lead to COVID test kit ordering difficulties,” said David. A Partenheimer in an email. “This is occurring in a small percentage of orders.”

On Twitter, multi-unit residents who were stymied traded tips and tricks, suggesting that registrants try including their apartment number in the first address line instead of the field specified for “apartment, unit or suite,”

Though that hack worked for some, reversing the apartment number did not work for Snelling. He said he submitted his complaint to the FAQ section of the USPS website, which should yield a response in one to three business days.

In the meantime, he’ll cross his fingers that he doesn’t start to feel sick, and continue to wait for his tests.

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