Temperature Considerations for the USPS Distribution of COVID Tests
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is preparing to deliver 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests as part of the Biden administration’s effort to improve access to COVID testing. This operation involves significant logistics and critical planning for the USPS which has been facing budget cuts and staff shortages in recent years.
Soon the distribution plan and routes will be confirmed, and tests will start to arrive in mailboxes across the U.S. With this effort launching during the coldest time of the year, it is spurring questions about the impact of below freezing temperatures on at-home diagnostics.
When it comes to protecting temperature sensitive medicines along the supply chain, often the goal – and the challenge – is to keep therapies cooled to protect constitution and efficacy. As packages of at-home COVID tests prepare to make their way along U.S. postal routes, inquiring minds have asked about when the converse happens. In this case, when diagnostic tools that utilize chemical reagents freeze and thaw, perhaps even in a cycle.
The majority of at-home antigen tests for COVID have strict handling instructions requiring storage between 36-86 F degrees. The most likely scenario for a delivery of these tests to experience a deviation from the label instructions is after handoff into the mailbox. Public health experts agree that tests may not work as intended after freezing and the best way to prevent that from happening is with active participation from the recipient.
So, for the millions of individuals that ordered tests for their families, what can be done to ensure timely retrieval of these tests for reliable results?
- Tune in to USPS announcements and news bulletins detailing progress on the execution of the program, look for social media posts from friends and family
- Pay attention to mail delivery timing and ask a neighbor to take any packages indoors if you are going to be away
- Make sure there is a clear pathway to and from your mailbox
This expansive program – a first of its kind in recent decades in the U.S. – represents increasing comfort with patient self-diagnostics. This is a chance for the USPS to demonstrate an important role it can play in the direct to patient care ecosystem.
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