U.S. will offer free COVID-19 tests by mail again amid rising rates of infections and hospitalizations
By Will Weissert And Associated Press |
The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to again order up to four free tests per household — aiming to prevent possible shortages during a rise in coronavirus cases that has typically come during colder months.
The Department of Health and Human Services says orders can be placed at COVIDTests.gov starting Sept. 25, and that no-cost tests will be delivered for free by the United States Postal Service.
Twelve manufacturers that employ hundreds of people in seven states have been awarded 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 that will help guard against supply chain issues that sparked some shortages of at-home COVID tests made 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 through the holidays and “we reserve the right to keep it open even longer if we’re starting to see an increase in cases.”
“If there is a demand for these tests, we want to make sure that they’re made available to the American people for free in this way,” O’Connell said. “But, at this point, our focus is getting through the holidays and making sure folks can take a test if they’re going to see Grandma for Thanksgiving.”
The tests are designed to detect COVID variants currently circulating, and are intended for use by the end of the year. But they will include instructions on how to verify extended expiration dates, the department said.