Mar 4, 2024 - Health

U.S. suspending free COVID test distribution once again

Illustration of a COVID test with an exclamation point in the result window.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Americans won't be able to order free COVID tests from the U.S. government again after Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services told Axios Monday.

The big picture: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently eased isolation guidance for the virus and urged older adults to receive a second shot of the updated COVID-19 vaccine.

  • The HHS's free COVID test program was suspended because of the lowering case rates after the winter respiratory season, though the agency may resume it in the future as needed.
  • Orders for free tests placed on or before Friday will be delivered, per HHS.
  • Every home in the U.S. was eligible to order eight tests total since the fall, and more than 1.8 billion have been distributed through COVIDTests.gov and its direct affiliates since the pandemic began.

Where it stands: The HHS's Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response will continue distributing millions of tests per week to long-term care facilities, food banks, health centers and schools, a spokesperson told Axios.

Flashback: The U.S. ended its public health emergency status in May, which also marked the end of private insurance being required to cover free over-the-counter COVID tests.

  • At that point, Medicare beneficiaries also couldn't get free over-the-counter tests anymore.
  • The at-home testing program was relaunched when hospitalizations increased in September 2023.

Go deeper: Older adults should get another COVID shot this spring, CDC says

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