With COVID-19 hospitalizations trending upward this month, you may be inclined to be extra diligent about taking a COVID test whenever you start to feel under the weather. Good news on that front: The federal government will soon mail out more free testing kits.
As The Daily Beast reports, the Biden administration has set aside $600 million to pay for the production of a couple million new COVID tests; and so far a dozen manufacturers across the U.S. have been granted some of those funds.
Starting Monday, September 25, each household can claim four tests at COVIDTests.gov. If the sign-up process is like previous rounds—there have been four to date—you’ll probably be asked to enter your name and mailing address (and, if you’d like to receive shipping updates, your email address, too). The U.S. Postal Service will handle everything else.
The new tests are meant to be used this year, but it’s possible that their expiration dates will get extended—which has happened with older tests. Basically, if a batch of tests is shown to be effective past its expiration date, the manufacturers will update the date. You can find out how to check if any expired tests in your house are actually still good here.
Why exactly has the government decided to hand out more testing kits now? So people “can take a test if they’re going to see Grandma for Thanksgiving,” said Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, per the Associated Press. In broader terms, the free tests should help everyone stay as safe as possible as the weather cools and people travel for the holidays.
Making sure U.S. manufacturers have the necessary funding to keep up with demand for tests should also help mitigate the risks inherent with importing tests from abroad—namely, that supply chain issues could cause a shortage, which has happened before.
Right now, the goal is to keep COVIDTests.gov up and running through the holiday season, but O’Connell also said that they “reserve the right to keep it open even longer” if need be.