Americans can now order up to eight free COVID-19 tests online for home delivery, starting Monday. This is a new initiative by the US government as flu season begins and RSV cases are on the rise in some parts of the country. Although hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were increasing in the fall, they have remained stable since then.
The distribution of free tests comes at just the right time for the winter holiday season, when cases tend to spike. The US Postal Service provides free shipping, making this an opportunity for people to prepare for a potential increase in virus transmission. Additionally, federal health officials emphasize the importance of immunity from previous vaccinations and infections in limiting the number of cases.
The release of free tests marks a significant moment as it coincides with when insurers are no longer required to cover their costs. Now, individuals typically pay about $11 out of pocket for at-home tests. Furthermore, in September, the Food and Drug Administration approved updated COVID-19 vaccines that target the KSBB.1.5 progeny of the omicron variant, with the goal of improving protection during winter months. Vaccinations are recommended for all ages 6 months and older, but uptake is slow.
Overall, this initiative underscores the US government’s commitment to fighting COVID-19 through developing tests, vaccines and treatments over the past three years at a cost of billions of dollars to taxpayers.