4 free COVID-19 tests per household will be available Monday — how to get them

The Biden administration is providing funding to produce another round of free at-home tests via the COVIDtests.gov program.

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Pruebas caseras de COVID-19 que indican un resultado positivo.

COVID-19 home tests indicating a positive result.

Patrick Sison / AP

Americans will again be able to get free COVID-19 tests from the federal government starting Monday.

The Biden administration announced plans for $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing people to order four free tests per household.

Orders can be placed online starting Monday via COVIDtests.gov — and the tests will be delivered for free by the U.S. Postal Service, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The aim is to avoid shortages during a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases that’s been seen during colder months.

According to HHS, 12 manufacturers have been awarded funding to produce 200 million over-the-counter tests to meet demand for online orders and to replenish federal stockpiles for government use.


How to order free COVID-19 tests

Starting Monday, all U.S. households can place an order via the COVIDtests.gov website to get four free COVID-19 rapid tests delivered directly to their homes.

The site allows orders only to residential addresses.

The four-per-household limit applies, so ordering under more than one name won’t get you more tests.

The tests are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

The website also has information on how to tell whether the expiration date on tests you already have has been extended.

The new effort is meant to guard against supply-chain issues that led to some shortages of at-home COVID tests made overseas during past surges in COVID-19 cases.

It also illustrates the political balance that President Joe Biden, seeking reelection next year, is trying to strike between trumpeting his administration as having led the country through the worst of the pandemic while also trying to trying to better prepare for the continued effects of a virus that experts say will persist and require updated shots to protect against.

“Whether or not people are done with it, we know the virus is there. We know that it’s circulating,” said Dawn O’Connell, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response. She said at-home testing is key to slowing the spread of new cases.

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“We know, if past is prologue, it’ll circulate to a higher degree and spread, and cases will go up in the fall and winter seasons,” O’Connell said. “Anticipating that that would be true again, or something similar, we want to make sure the American people have these tools.”

O’Connell said the website will remain functional to place orders through the holiday season and that “We reserve the right to keep it open even longer if we’re starting to see an increase in cases.

“If there is a demand for these tests, we want to make sure that they’re made available to the American people for free in this way,” O’Connell said. “But at this point, our focus is getting through the holidays and making sure folks can take a test if they’re going to see grandma for Thanksgiving.”

The tests are designed to detect COVID-19 variants that are now circulating and are intended for use by the end of the year. But they will include instructions on how to verify extended expiration dates.

The initiative follows four previous rounds of free tests in which the federal government provided more than 755 million tests for free nationwide.

It’s meant to complement ongoing federal efforts to provide free COVID-19 tests to long-term care facilities, schools, low-income senior housing, people who are uninsured and underserved communities. Those efforts are distributing 4 million tests a week and have distributed 500 million tests so far, according to HHS.

O’Connell said manufacturers would be able to spread out the 200 million tests they will produce for federal use over 18 months. That means that, as demand for home tests rises via the website or at U.S. retailers when the number of COVID-19 cases around the country rises, producers can focus on meeting those orders. And they will then have an additional outlet for the tests they produce during period when demand declines, she said.

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