The U.S. government has announced that Americans can order more free COVID-19 tests online for home delivery in anticipation of the typical surge in cases during the winter holiday season. This initiative aims to provide additional resources to the public as the country navigates through the flu season and reports of increasing RSV cases.
From Monday onwards, anyone interested can obtain up to eight test kits via COVIDtests.gov and have them delivered by the U.S. Postal Service without any charges. This initiative is part of an effort from the authorities aiming for better disease control amidst the flu season kicking off along with reported spikes in RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases across some parts of America.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were seen rising this fall but remained steady over recent weeks, thanks largely to immunity gained through previous vaccinations or infections, which kept case counts lower compared with other years despite the fact that it has claimed lives exceeding 1 million people within the United States alone since its outbreak.
The release of these tests is particularly significant as it coincides with the first winter since the pandemic began when insurers are no longer required to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests. According to KFF, a nonprofit health research firm, the average out-of-pocket cost for at-home tests is now around $11.
In addition to offering free tests, the U.S. government is also promoting the updated COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration in September. These vaccines are designed to provide enhanced protection against an omicron descendant named XBB.1.5, replacing earlier versions that targeted the original coronavirus strain and an earlier omicron variant. Despite recommendations for everyone aged 6 months and older to receive these shots, the uptake has been relatively slow.