The Biden administration is expected to resume distributing free COVID-19 test kits next week, with every U.S. household eligible to receive four additional kits in the mail.
The administration announced Wednesday that orders for free tests could be placed starting September 25. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced it would invest $600 million to purchase 200 million new COVID tests from domestic manufacturers.
Tests can be ordered through the COVID.gov website starting Monday. The tests will actually be used until the end of the year. The site offers instructions for checking if tests are expired, as many kits have had their expiration dates extended beyond what can be printed on the packaging.
Free tests were first offered in early 2022, with more than 755 million copies sent to households who requested them online. The program was suspended in May, as the number of tests remaining in the stockpile declined and after the COVID public health emergency officially ended.
Although COVID tests remain widely available for retail purchase, free testing has been less common in recent months. The end of the public health emergency also ended the requirement for health insurers to offer up to eight free tests per month.
In addition to the upcoming offer of free at-home testing, free testing is currently available in the United States at more than 15,000 testing sites. A searchable database of sites is offered online by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement that the purchases of new tests from 12 different U.S. manufacturers were “critical investments (that) will strengthen our nation’s production levels of national rapid COVID-19 tests.” 19 at home and will help mitigate the spread of the virus. “.
Dawn O’Connell, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, argued that the purchases would be a positive development for American workers in addition to preparing the country for possible COVID spikes in coming seasons.
“Manufacturing COVID-19 tests in the United States strengthens our preparation for the upcoming fall and winter seasons, reduces our dependence on other countries, and provides good jobs for hard-working Americans,” he said. O’Connell said.
The free tests, capable of detecting all COVID variants currently in circulation, come at a time when test positivity rates have seen an uptick in some parts of the country. Public health officials have expressed concern that infections could spread further as the seasons change.
Updated COVID vaccine boosters have also been widely available this month, while a handful of isolated institutions across the country, including hospitals and schools, have reintroduced mask requirements to limit the spread of the virus.