September 21, 2023
The U.S. government is again offering free at-home COVID-19 tests as part of its push to prevent a surge of illnesses this fall and winter.
Beginning Monday, households can place online orders to receive four tests through the U.S. Postal Service.
Over the last two years, the Biden administration program distributed 755 million free tests. The program ended in May, but it is being revived as COVID-19 hospitalizations tick up and private insurers no longer are required to cover up to eight at-home tests per month.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have been trending upward since July. More than 20,50 people were hospitalized by the coronavirus in the week ending Sept. 9 – a 7.7% increase from the prior week, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths rose 4.5% over that same span.
The CDC recommends all Americans age 6 months and older receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine this fall. The new vaccine provides better protection against the forms of the coronavirus that are currently spreading.
Respiratory illnesses, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, historically spread in the fall and winter months, when temperatures are cooler and people gather more frequently indoors. New flu shots are available, and RSV vaccines are available to older adults and pregnant women for the first time this fall. Here's when doctors recommend people get inoculated this fall.
The Biden administration is spending $600 million to purchase 200 million at-home tests from 12 domestic manufacturers, including Access Bio and Princeton BioMeditech in New Jersey, and OraSure Technologies in Pennsylvania.
Purchasing the tests from American manufacturers will reduce the reliance on overseas production in case of a serious uptick in COVID-19 cases, U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra said.