Starting from Monday, September 25, the Biden administration is rebooting the COVIDtests.gov website to allow households to request up to four free COVID-19 rapid tests. This decision acknowledges that COVID hospitalizations have peaked in January for the last three consecutive years. It underscores the imperative nature of testing as a significant tool to reduce the spread of the virus.
With the pandemic emergency designation having expired earlier this year, several programs that permitted Americans to access free testing, treatment, and vaccination for COVID-19 were discontinued. Addressing this, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), via its Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, is now committing $600 million towards the production of COVID tests.
This substantial investment will benefit 12 U.S. manufacturers, facilitating the procurement of 200 million tests. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra emphasized that this move aims to strengthen the domestic supply chain and decrease dependency on foreign manufacturers.
Historically, the premier batch of no-cost rapid tests was dispatched by mail during the Omicron surge in January 2022, marking the highest point of COVID infections observed. The provision for free tests was extended multiple times thereafter, resulting in a distribution of 755 million free tests in total.
Furthermore, this initiative holds particular significance for the Black community. Historically, Black Americans have faced systemic disparities in healthcare access and outcomes. These disparities became even more evident during the pandemic, where Black communities often reported higher rates of infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities due to COVID-19. The resurgence of free testing accessibility can play a pivotal role in bridging the testing gap and ensuring that Black Americans have equal access to vital resources that can help monitor and curb the spread of the virus in their communities. By emphasizing inclusivity and equitable distribution, the Biden administration’s decision can help mitigate some of the healthcare inequities that have disproportionately impacted the Black community.
The government has advised the public to retain unused tests, even if they have surpassed their expiration date. They recommend checking the lot numbers of any remaining tests on the COVIDtests.gov website, as many expiration dates have been prolonged and updated listings are available there.
Additionally, the strategic preparedness office continues to provide free COVID tests to specific groups including long-term care facilities, low-income senior residences, uninsured individuals, and communities that are historically underserved.