The Biden administration is set to resume the distribution of free at-home COVID tests to American households starting Monday, responding to the increasing prevalence of the virus nationwide.
Through COVIDtests.gov, Americans will soon have the option to request four free Covid tests, as announced by the administration. This service had been available on the website since January 2022 but ceased taking orders on June 1 of the same year to conserve test supplies.
Eight-week consecutive increase in Covid
The relaunch of the program is timed to address the expected surge in COVID cases during the fall and winter months, typical periods of heightened viral transmission. Recent weeks have already seen an eight-week consecutive increase in Covid hospitalizations, primarily driven by the emergence of newer virus strains.
The Biden administration emphasized that the at-home Covid tests to be distributed are capable of detecting the currently circulating Covid variants. These kits are intended for use until the end of 2023 and will include instructions on how individuals can verify any extensions to the test’s expiration date.
Given the rising number of Covid infections, testing remains a crucial tool for protection. However, traditional lab PCR tests have become more expensive and less accessible for some Americans since the U.S. government terminated the public health emergency declaration in May. This change also altered how public and private insurers cover the cost of at-home tests, potentially leaving some individuals without free access through their insurance plans. Nevertheless, some local health clinics and community sites continue to offer free at-home tests to the public.
Government terminated the public health emergency declaration in May
Additionally, the Biden administration announced its commitment to providing $600 million to enhance manufacturing capabilities for 12 COVID test manufacturers across the country. It anticipates securing approximately 200 million tests from these companies. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra noted that these investments are vital for bolstering domestic production of at-home COVID-19 rapid tests, ultimately contributing to efforts to curb the virus’s spread.
The new initiative aims to mitigate supply chain challenges that previously resulted in shortages of at-home Covid tests produced abroad during previous waves of coronavirus cases. However, it also underscores the delicate political balancing act that Joe Biden is navigating as he approaches re-election next year. He must both highlight his administration’s management of the pandemic’s most severe phases and prepare for the ongoing impact of the persistent virus.