More free COVID-19 tests can be ordered now, as uptick looms

Author: ALEXANDER TIN
Published: Updated:
FILE – Youngstown City Health Department worker Faith Terreri grabs two at-home COVID-19 test kits to be handed out during a distribution event, Dec. 30, 2021, in Youngstown, Ohio. Nearly half the 500 million free COVID-19 tests the Biden administration recently made available to Americans still have not been claimed as virus cases plummet and people feel less urgency to test. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

Americans can now order another round of four free COVID-19 tests for this season, the U.S. Postal Service announced Monday, as health officials have been preparing for an expected resurgence in the virus over the coming weeks.

The four additional tests will ship for free starting the week of Nov. 27, the USPS says.

How to order more free COVID tests

The tests can be ordered online at covid.gov/tests or through the postal service’s webpage â€” the same as the previous round of free tests offered in September.

Households that did not order their first batch of four free tests after ordering reopened earlier this fall will be able to place two orders from the USPS, for a total of eight free rapid antigen COVID-19 tests.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which supplies the tests out of its stockpile of previously-purchased kits, said last week that 56 million tests have been delivered so far this season. That works out to around 14 million American households who have requested tests.

Federal health officials have been urging Americans to continue to use COVID-19 tests to reduce the risk of spreading the virus during this holiday season, alongside other precautions like vaccinations and masking.

COVID-19 testing can also help people figure out whether they should seek out a course of Pfizer’s Paxlovid, a drug treatment that can help prevent more severe symptoms. The medication remains available as it transitions to the private market this month.

The new test kits comes as health authorities have been closely scrutinizing data tracking the virus, with cases forecast to increase this winter.

After weeks of largely slowing or flat COVID-19 trends, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday that some indicators — emergency department visits and hospitalizations — had begun to increase “slightly” nationwide.

COVID-19 still makes up the largest share of emergency department visits for viral respiratory illnesses around the country, according to the CDC’s figures, even as flu and RSV trends have accelerated in recent weeks.

“I hope you’re still wearing masks when you need to, I hope you’re getting that updated vaccine,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told a group of public health organizations on Wednesday.

Becerra said he had recently gotten back from a cross-country flight with his 90-year-old mother.

“There weren’t many people masked, but we were, thank God. Actually, she’s the one that brought out the mask first and reminded me because the last thing I need is for her going into Thanksgiving to have contracted COVID,” Becerra said.

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