U.S. will again offer free at-home Covid tests starting Monday

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Covid-19 home test kits are pictured in a store window during the Covid-19 pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, Jan. 19, 2022.

Carlo Allegri | Reuters

The Biden administration on Wednesday said it will resume offering free at-home Covid tests to American households Monday as the virus gains a stronger foothold nationwide. 

Americans will soon be able to use COVIDtests.gov to request four free tests, the administration said in a release. 

The government had offered free test kits through that website since January 2022, but the site stopped taking orders June 1 of this year to conserve supplies of the tests. 

The government is relaunching the program in time for the fall and winter when the virus typically spreads at higher levels. Covid hospitalizations have already increased for eight straight weeks — an uptick primarily driven by newer strains of the virus.

But the Biden administration noted that the at-home tests set to be delivered will detect currently circulating Covid variants. The kits are intended for use through the end of 2023 and will come with instructions for how people can verify if a test’s expiration date has been extended, the administration added.

Testing is a critical tool for protection as Covid infections climb again. But lab PCR tests — the traditional method of detecting Covid — have become more expensive and less accessible for some Americans since the U.S. government ended the public health emergency in May. 

The end of that declaration also changed how public and private insurers cover at-home tests, potentially leaving some people unable to get those tests for free through their plans. But certain local health clinics and community sites still offer at-home tests to the public at no cost. 

Also on Wednesday, the Biden administration said it will provide $600 million to strengthen manufacturing capacity at 12 Covid test manufacturers across the country. The administration expects to secure about 200 million tests from those companies. 

“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,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

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