Americans can order more free Covid-19 tests from the federal government starting Monday, after the Biden administration announced another $600 million for the program it had suspended in May.
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The website Covidtests.gov will take the orders, asking visitors to enter basic information such as name and address. One order includes four rapid tests, and there is a limit of one order for a residential address. The U.S. Postal Service will deliver the orders at no cost.
The government is also urging people not to throw out any current “expired tests” before checking if the expiration dates on those tests have been extended. The same website, Covidtests.gov, has a link to a site where people can look up their old tests and check if the expiration dates have been extended through late 2023 or 2024.
Twelve manufacturers in seven states have received funding to produce 200 million over-the-counter tests to replenish federal stockpiles and fulfill mail-order requests, the Health and Human Services Department said.
The Biden administration is providing more free tests as the number of Covid hospitalizations rises. There is evidence through wastewater testing that Covid infections have risen in recent weeks.
Although the public might be “done” with the Covid-19 pandemic, “we know the virus is there, we know that it’s circulating” and that cases will increase in the fall and winter, said Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said.
The federal government previously distributed more than 1.2 billion free Covid tests, including 755 million tests sent directly to than two-thirds of U.S. households, more than 250 million tests to nursing homes, and more than 140 million to kindergarten through 12th grade schools and historically black colleges and universities, according to the White House.
Pharmacies have begun giving updated Covid-19 shots from Moderna (ticker: MRNA) and Pfizer (PFE). People can find available doses on the Vaccines.gov website, by texting their ZIP code to 438829, or calling 1-800-232-0233. The latest vaccines are designed to target currently circulating variants and better protect recipients from hospitalization and severe illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the vaccines for those six months and older.
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Some people have reported difficulty getting the shots, encountering a limited number of appointments amid supply backups, or finding out that their insurance companies won’t pay for the shots. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said last week that his agency was working with insurers and pharmacies to resolve the problems.
President Biden received the updated Covid vaccine and his annual flu shot on Friday, the White House said. “As we enter the cold and flu season, the President encourages all Americans to follow his example and to check with their healthcare provider or pharmacist to assure that they are fully vaccinated,” presidential physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor wrote.
Write to Janet H. Cho at [email protected]