1 of 2 | Americans can order free at-home COVID-19 tests again, starting Monday, as the Biden administration spends $600 million to provide new tests amid rising hospitalizations. Photo courtesy of iHealth
Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Americans can order free at-home COVID-19 tests again, starting Monday, as the Biden administration spends $600 million to provide new tests amid rising hospitalizations.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that the website CovidTests.Gov. will allow U.S. households to order four free rapid tests over the coming weeks, as cases are expected to surge this winter.
"We want them to be able to use those tests during this viral season -- fall, winter, respiratory viral season," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Wednesday, as he received his updated COVID and flu shots at a CVS drugstore in Washington, D.C.
"Today, alongside leaders from Moderna, Pfizer and CVS Health, I received both my updated COVID-19 vaccine and my flu shot!" Becerra wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
"Put some time on your calendar to get your vaccines. You can get both in one trip and it takes less time than making a cup of coffee," he added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitalizations are up 7.7% across the United States since last month, with 20,538 people admitted between Sept. 3 and Sept. 9.
The new at-home tests -- which will ship as early as Oct. 2, -- will detect current COVID-19 variants, including the highly mutated BA.2.86 variant. They are intended to be used through the end of 2023.
Anyone who still has COVID-19 tests, from the last round, should check to see if the expiration dates have been extended at the Food and Drug Administration's website, before throwing them out.
The new tests will come from 12 U.S. manufacturing companies in seven states, according to Becerra.
"These critical investments will strengthen our nation's production levels of domestic at-home COVID-19 rapid tests and help mitigate the spread of the virus," Becerra said, adding that the tests will "reduce our reliance on overseas manufacturing."
While the government offered free tests last winter, shipments were paused in May to conserve supplies.
"We've had these stockpiled. We'd rather folks have these tests in their medicine cabinets that they can use now, than sitting in a stockpile somewhere," said Dawn O'Connell, head of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, which oversees the tests.
"We really think it's just been an important tool, and we made an active decision to make it available now."