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Government to relaunch free COVID testing website next week; Americans can order 4 per household

WASHINGTON– The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and restarting a website allowing Americans to reorder up to four tests free per household – in order to avoid possible shortages during periods of increase. in cases of coronavirus which usually occur in the colder months.

The Department of Health and Human Services says orders can be placed at COVIDTests.gov starting September 25 and free tests will be delivered free of charge by the United States Postal Service.

Twelve manufacturers that employ hundreds of people in seven states have received funding and will produce 200 million over-the-counter tests to replenish federal stockpiles for government use, in addition to producing enough tests to meet demand for tests ordered online, the department said. . Federal officials said it would help guard against supply chain problems that triggered some shortages of at-home COVID tests conducted overseas during past surges in coronavirus cases.

Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said the website will remain functional to receive orders over the holidays and “we reserve the right to keep it open even longer if we begin to see an increase in cases. “

At-home COVID-19 antigen tests showing a positive result are pictured in New York, April 5, 2023.

AP Photo/Patrick Sison, file

“If there is a demand for these tests, we want to make sure they are made freely available to the American people in this way,” O’Connell said. “But, at this point, our goal is to get through the holidays and make sure people can get a test if they’re going to see Grandma for Thanksgiving.”

The tests are designed to detect COVID variants currently circulating and are expected to be used by the end of the year. But they will include instructions on how to check for extended expiration dates, the department said.

The initiative follows four previous rounds in which federal officials and the U.S. Postal Service provided more than 755 million tests for free to homes nationwide.

It also aims to complement ongoing federal efforts to provide free COVID tests to long-term care facilities, schools, low-income senior housing, the uninsured and underserved communities, which are already distributing them 4 million per week and have distributed 500 million tests to date. , indicated the ministry.

O’Connell said manufacturers will be able to spread out the 200 million tests they produce for federal use over 18 months. This means that as demand for at-home testing increases through the website or at U.S. retailers when COVID cases rise in the country, producers can focus on fulfilling those orders — but then they will have an additional outlet for the tests they produce during the period when demand decreases.

“We’ve seen every winter, as people move indoors into heated spaces, away from the outdoors, that in each of the seasons where COVID has been a concern, we’ve seen cases increase ” O’Connell said.

She added that “there is always an opportunity or a chance that another variant will appear,” but “we don’t anticipate that.”

“That’s not why we’re doing this,” O’Connell said. “We are doing this for the upcoming fall and winter season and the potential for increased cases that will result.”

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said that “the Biden-Harris Administration, in partnership with domestic manufacturers, has made great strides in addressing vulnerabilities in the U.S. supply chain by reducing our reliance on of foreign manufacturing”.

“These critical investments will boost production levels of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests in our country and help mitigate the spread of the virus,” Becerra said in a statement.


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