Every family in the US will be entitled to order up to eight free Covid tests this winter to help avoid spreading the virus to loved ones.
Families were offered four tests per household in late September, but this has now been expanded to another four swabs — which are worth $12 per package.
The tests — made available through a $600million grant to test suppliers — can be ordered online from CovidTests.gov and take at least two weeks to arrive.
Covid cases are rising again at present, with wastewater surveillance showing a five percent uptick in the concentration of Covid particles over the week to November 8. Flu cases are also ticking up, with the number reported rising 60 percent in the week to November 12, the latest available.
Families were offered four tests per household in late September, but are now being offered an additional four more. About one in ten households have ordered the tests so far
The above shows estimates of Covid cases according to wastewater surveillance. It shows cases are on the rise again
The above shows flu cases in the US, revealing they are also on the rise
A total of 14.5million homes have ordered free Covid tests so far, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services told DailyMail.com.
Dawn O’Connell, the head of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) — which assisted with the Covid response — said: ‘We’re going to see families gather with older loved ones and younger loved ones [later this year].
‘It’s important that they are able to protect their loved ones from Covid as we head into the winter months.
‘So, we think opening [CovidTests.Gov] up right before the winter holidays really kick in is going to be very important for the American people, to provide this access for the free four tests again.’
She added: ‘We know that the tests are going to be good for the next several months, [but] they’re not going to be good forever.
‘And so we think it’s important that we go ahead and have them in the hands of the American people so they can use them and protect themselves as we head into the winter.’
The Biden Administration has invested $600million into local testing companies that will manufacture an estimated 200million swabs.
The tests are rapid antigen tests, which use a swab placed into the nose and mouth and then mixed with a solution to give results in 30 minutes.
Online orders take seven to 12 days to ship, the website says, and will then take several more days to reach homes.
Some of the swabs delivered may say they have passed their expiration date, ASPR said, but they pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved extending their shelf life.
Covid tests are also available in pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, although one test is priced at $10 or two at $23.99.
The tests being offered can only detect Covid and not other seasonal menaces such as the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
The $600million has been invested across 12 domestic manufacturers and is leftover money from the last Covid bill to pass in Congress.
Congress has managed to claw back $30billion in unspent relief funds following a deal between Biden and the Republicans to raise the debt ceiling. But officials said that there was still enough leftover to spend on further tests.
CovidTests.gov was first opened in January 2022 to distribute 500million tests to households, with each able to order four swabs.
Official data shows that the positivity rate for Covid — or the proportion of tests picking up the virus — is no longer falling. This suggests infections may again be rising
And this graph shows how the number of people admitted to hospital with the flu is starting to tick up as winter approaches
This map shows flu activity by state. It reveals activity is highest in Louisiana and Puerto Rico
It was relaunched again in December 2022, with households again allowed to order four tests each — and has now relaunched for the third time in September this year.
Wastewater surveillance reported by Biobot suggests Covid cases are rising, with the virus concentration rising from 425 to 444 copies per milliliter (ml) of sewage.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also indicates cases may be rising, with the positivity rate holding at eight percent for two weeks up to the week ending November 11.
Covid hospitalizations are also rising, with admissions hitting 16,000 in the week to November 11 compared to almost 15,000 the previous week. This is, however, still well below the 24,000 recorded at the same time last year.
CDC data also indicates a rise in flu infections, with 3,002 recorded in the week to November 12 — up 60 percent on the same time the previous week.
CDC experts say this figure is a vast undercount because most people who catch the flu do not get tested or have their infection recorded.
Covid vaccines have also been made available to everyone aged six months and older to help head off infections, although officials say only those over 75 years old need the jabs.
The latest data up to early November shows 36million adults had gotten the shot, including 3.5million children, out of more than 329million people who are eligible.
For comparison, an estimated 91million Americans — or 34 percent of the adult population — have come forward for the flu vaccine.
And 11million people over the age of 60 years, or 13 percent of the age group, have come forward to get the shot against respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV).