Dec 15, 2022 - Health

Free at-home COVID tests program revived

Illustration of a covid rapid test with a change symbol in the results panel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Editor's note: Read here the latest information on this program.

The White House is relaunching its COVID-19 home testing program on Thursday as part of preparations for a wintertime surge of cases.

The big picture: The administration suspended the program in September after distributing more than 600 million tests, in order to ensure there would be enough tests to meet future needs.

  • Officials reopened the website on Thursday for a limited round of ordering.
  • Households can obtain four free at-home tests, which will be mailed for free starting the week of Dec. 19.

Driving the news: COVID cases are rising across the country, driven by new strains capable of thwarting immune defenses.

  • With mandates largely out of the picture, the administration is pushing out more free tests by mail and to schools, community health centers and long-term care facilities.
  • Its "winter preparedness plan" also envisions working with states to increase sluggish vaccination rates, including with pop up or mobile vaccination sites.
  • The administration also is pre-positioning masks and other protective gear and making contingencies if health systems become overwhelmed and need help with staffing.
  • An administration official expressed confidence there is enough of the antiviral Paxlovid on hand for the forseeable future. The government already has distributed about 6 million doses of Pfizer's pill.

Of note: The administration redistributed funding left from the American Rescue Plan to buy more at-home tests, the official said.

  • Some states and local governments continue to offer free tests but others have suspended purchases.

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