The U.S. government will send out another batch of four at-home COVID-19 tests for free to Americans in anticipation of the usual increase in cases during the winter holiday season.
Starting Monday, anyone who did not request a set of four COVID-19 tests in September can now order up to eight tests at COVIDtests.gov for home delivery by the U.S. Postal Service at no cost.
This initiative comes as the flu season begins and as some areas of the country are experiencing a rise in RSV cases. While COVID-19 hospitalizations have been increasing this fall, they have remained stable in recent weeks, partially due to immunity from prior vaccinations and infections.
The distribution of free COVID-19 nasal swab tests is also timed with the upcoming winter, marking the first season since the start of the pandemic during which insurers are no longer mandated to cover the cost of these tests. As a result, the out-of-pocket cost for at-home tests now averages at $11, according to an analysis conducted by the nonprofit health research firm KFF.
In September, the Food and Drug Administration authorized updated COVID-19 vaccines with the aim of enhancing protection for Americans during the winter months. These vaccines target a descendant of the omicron variant known as XBB.1.5, replacing older vaccines that targeted the original coronavirus strain and an earlier version of the omicron variant. While shots are recommended for individuals aged 6 months and older, the uptake has been slow.
Over the past three years since the start of the pandemic, U.S. taxpayers have allocated tens of billions of dollars toward the development of COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and treatments.