COVID-19 tests will once again be available to all Americans, free of charge, as health officials prepare for a winter resurgence of the deadly virus.
According to this year’s Winter Preparedness Plan, which the Biden Administration announced on Dec. 15, every household in the country can now order up to four free COVID-19 tests through COVID.gov. Orders will start shipping out this week.
Those who are blind or have low vision can order one set of 12 specialized tests, but cannot include regular tests in their order.
In addition, the Administration announced it will “distribute free at-home tests at more than 6,500 Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted rental housing properties serving seniors and [expand] a program to distribute free at-home tests to as many as 500 major food banks for them to distribute to people in their communities.”
According to Andrea Garcia, JD, MPH, vice president of science, medicine and public health at the American Medical Association, COVID-19 cases are on the rise this winter. Garcia told AMA on Dec. 15 that hospitalizations have risen 30% in the past two weeks, with an average daily rate of 38,000.
“The CDC is indicating that much of that increase in those numbers is being driven by older people and those with existing health conditions that put them at a disproportionate risk,” Garcia said. “The daily average for reported cases is now at more than 65,000 and that’s based on The New York Times data. It’s up 56% from two weeks ago, so [we’re] certainly seeing that post-Thanksgiving surge.”
Garcia said the number of deaths was up 40% in the last two weeks, with a daily average of about 466. But the Biden Administration said providing more testing could help lower the severity of COVID-19 this winter.
“COVID-19 testing is an important tool to help mitigate and slow the spread of the virus,” the White House wrote. “The Administration is encouraging Americans to use at-home COVID-19 tests when they have symptoms of COVID-19, before and after traveling for the holidays, or visiting indoors with immunocompromised or vulnerable individuals.”
People who need help accessing the internet to order free tests can call 800-232-0233 (TTY 888-720-7489) to get help in English, Spanish and other languages. The lines are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, and weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Older adults and people with disabilities who need help ordering tests can contact the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116) or the Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL, 888-677-1199). The lines are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST.