In a proactive response to the escalating threat of COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced the relaunch of a crucial program that will provide free at-home COVID-19 tests to Americans.
This announcement comes at a time when the virus is regaining strength and spreading across the nation, posing a significant public health challenge.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra made this momentous announcement during a vaccination event held at a CVS Pharmacy in Washington, D.C. The program, set to restart on Monday, September 25, will revive the Covidtests.gov website, enabling individuals to request up to four free rapid COVID-19 tests per household.
Earlier this year, many programs that offered free COVID-19 testing and treatment were phased out as the pandemic emergency designation expired.
The program, initially launched in January 2022, temporarily ceased taking orders on June 1 to preserve testing supplies. Now, as the fall and winter months approach, and with COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise for eight consecutive weeks, this relaunch is both timely and essential.
The at-home tests being distributed will be effective in detecting the currently circulating COVID-19 variants, ensuring that individuals can stay informed about their health and take necessary precautions. These tests are designed for use until the end of 2023 and will include instructions on how to verify extended expiration dates.
Access to testing is crucial, especially as traditional lab PCR tests have become more expensive and less accessible for some Americans since the end of the public health emergency in May. Changes in how public and private insurers cover at-home tests have left some individuals without free testing options through their insurance plans. However, certain local health clinics and community sites continue to offer at-home tests to the public at no cost.
In addition to resuming the at-home testing program, the Biden administration has allocated $600 million to bolster manufacturing capacity at 12 COVID-19 test manufacturers across the country. This initiative aims to secure about 200 million tests from these companies, further fortifying the nation’s ability to respond effectively to the ongoing pandemic.
As a part of its ongoing efforts, HHS encourages individuals not to discard unused tests, even if the expiration date has passed. The COVIDtests.gov website provides information on extended expiration dates for many test kits, ensuring that resources are maximized.
Moreover, the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response is actively distributing free COVID-19 tests to various communities, including long-term care facilities, low-income senior housing, uninsured individuals, and underserved communities.
With these comprehensive measures in place, the U.S. government is taking a proactive stance against the resurgence of COVID-19, reaffirming its commitment to safeguarding the health and well-being of people.