The Biden administration, eyeing a potential winter surge of COVID-19, announced Wednesday that it is reviving its program to provide free coronavirus tests to Americans by mail, and will spend $600 million to purchase tests from dozens of domestic manufacturers.
Program website, covidtests.govApplications will begin being accepted on Monday, and families will receive four tests. The money will fund the purchase of 200 million tests to replenish the nation’s stockpile as the tests are sent out, said Don O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services.
But Ms O’Connell said a byproduct of the program was that it would boost local manufacturing capacity in the event of another serious surge in coronavirus. She said that if there was a spike in demand, the ministry had given manufacturers permission to sell the tests directly to retailers before the government.
Hospitalizations due to the coronavirus have been increasing in the United States, although they are still low compared to earlier periods of the pandemic, and free tests are now difficult to obtain for many Americans. While private insurers were previously required to cover up to eight home tests per month, that requirement ended when the Biden administration allowed the coronavirus public health emergency to expire in May.
The administration first began offering free at-home coronavirus tests through the Postal Service early last year after the Omicron variant caused cases to spike. More than 600 million tests were distributed before officials halted the program late that summer, due to lack of funding. The administration then resumed offering the tests late last year before halting the program again this spring.
The announcement came Wednesday as President Biden’s health secretary, Xavier Becerra, tried to drum up interest in newly approved coronavirus vaccines by getting his own COVID and flu shots at a CVS pharmacy in Washington. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last week that all Americans ages 6 months and older receive at least one dose of reconstituted COVID vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
With the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna standing by his side, Becerra recalled his mother, who is about to turn 90 and who, he said, did not have Covid-19.
He said: “I feel relieved, after I got the doses, because I can hug my mother and kiss her and not be responsible for her contracting the disease,” adding: “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
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