Up to four free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests became available to every U.S. household on Monday as part of a government effort to ramp up prevention efforts over the coming fall and winter months. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Free at-home COVID-19 tests became available online Monday as the United States moved into the fall respiratory illness season, the Department of Health and Human Services announced.
Health officials said that under the program, every U.S. household is now eligible to receive four free COVID-19 rapid tests mailed directly to their homes by placing an order on the Covid.gov website.
A link on the website connects directly to the U.S. Postal Service, where users can enter their contact information and mailing address.
Phone help is also available by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).
The tests being made available are over-the-counter rapid antigen at-home tests, not the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, saliva tests, which are administered in medical settings. The rapid tests yield results within 30 minutes and do not need to be dropped off at a lab.
The Covid.gov website also allows users to voluntarily report positive or negative COVID-19 test results through MakeMyTestCount.org to help with public health efforts.
The move comes as the federal government prepared for a possible surge in COVID-19 infections in the coming winter months as people move indoors.
The Biden administration announced the resumption of the free tests last week as part of a $600 million effort amid rising hospitalizations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 hospitalizations are up more than three-fold across the United States since mid-summer. Nearly 20,000 people were admitted during the week ending Sept. 16 compared with 6,300 during the week of June 24.
The new at-home tests 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.