The Biden administration is set to resume distribution of free COVID-19 test kits next week, with every U.S. household eligible to receive four more kits by mail.

The administration announced on Wednesday that orders for the free tests could be placed beginning on September 25. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced that it would be investing $600 million to purchase 200 million new COVID tests from domestic manufacturers.

Tests can be ordered through the website COVID.gov beginning on Monday. The tests are indeed for use through the end of the year. The site offers instructions on verifying whether the tests are expired, as many kits have had their expiration dates extended beyond what may be printed on the packaging.

Free tests were first offered in early 2022, with more than 755 million being sent to household who requested them online. The program was paused in May, as the number of tests left in the stockpile was diminishing and after the official end of the COVID public health emergency.

A COVID-19 test is shown on February 8, 2022, in Provo, Utah. The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that free COVID test kits will again be available to order at COVID.gov beginning Monday.
George Frey

While COVID tests remain widely available for retail purchase, free tests have been less commonplace in recent months. The ending of the public health emergency also halted a requirement for health insurers to provide up to eight no-cost tests per month.

In addition to the coming offer of free at-home tests, no-cost testing is currently available in the U.S. at over 15,000 test sites. A searchable database of sites is offered online by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement that the purchases of new tests from 12 different U.S. manufacturers were “critical investments [that] will strengthen our nation’s production levels of domestic at-home COVID-19 rapid tests and help mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Dawn O’Connell, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, argued that the purchases would be a positive development for American workers in addition to preparing the country for potential COVID spikes in the coming seasons.

“Manufacturing COVID-19 tests in the United States strengthens our preparedness for the upcoming fall and winter seasons, reduces our reliance on other countries, and provides good jobs to hardworking Americans,” O’Connell said.

The free tests, which are capable of detecting all currently circulating COVID variants, are being offered at a time when test positivity rates have experienced an uptick in parts of the country. Public health officials have expressed concern that infections could become more widespread with the changing of the seasons.

Updated COVID vaccine booster shots were also made widely available this month, while a scattering of isolated institutions across the country including hospitals and schools have reintroduced mask mandates to limit the spread of virus.

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