American households will now be able to request four more free home COVID tests from the federal government. The White House announced that it was reopening the orders as part of a new “winterization plan” as cases and hospitalizations are rising..
One application from each household for a “limited round of orders this winter” will be accepted through COVIDtests.gov. The US Postal Service will mail the first proofs during the week of December 19.
“Acquisitions are ongoing, so I can’t give you exact numbers on how this will play out, but we’re confident we’ll have enough tests to get through this round, four per household, in the next few weeks.” a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday.
The movementthat the Biden administration had citing a long-stalled request in Congress to fund the federal response to the pandemic.
At the time, officials said the decision to pause the program was to “ensure we have a limited supply of tests available in the fall” for a potential surge.
A White House spokesman said Wednesday that this winter’s shipments would be supplied by a mix of newly purchased tests and the remaining contracted supply for the original rounds of applications. The administration official told reporters that the tests were paid for byfunds, as part of rearranged “hard decisions” from other priorities.
“We can reopen COVIDtests.gov for a limited round because, in the absence of congressional funding, we have acted within our limited resources to purchase more at-home tests for our national stockpile,” the official said.
More freeit will also be implemented in federally subsidized housing for seniors and food banks.
The official stressed that the new round of orders builds on other free testing initiatives implemented earlier in the pandemic that remain available to Americans, such as the federal requirement that private health insurers cover the cost of eight tests per month.
“We have the tools”
This move comes like COVID-19 hospitalizations they have risen in several regions, especially among the elderly, although they are still a fraction of the levels seen at the height of the rise of the Omicron variant last winter. Cases have also accelerated in nursing homes at levels not seen since early February.
A growing number of communities, includinghave issued renewed pleas for residents to wear masks indoors as COVID-19 metrics have climbed to the CDC .
On the vaccination front, the rate of new injections administered has largely stagnated across the country. Only 15.5% of adults have received their updated COVID booster shot.
In nursing homes, published figures by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday showed that only 45% of residents received the last booster through the end of November. That was just 3 percentage points better than the previous month.
Nursing home staff will now be able to vaccinate residents, officials said, and the White House is releasing a “winter playbook” to raise awareness of steps facilities can take to curb the virus this season for these Americans at risk.
“We have the tools we need to prevent death and serious illness, and we want all nursing homes to take action now,” the official said.
Other moves announced this week as part of the White House plan also echo those from early in the pandemic, such as “prepositioning critical supplies” from the national reserve and preparing emergency medical kits.
However, the Biden administration stopped short of fully reviving all of its initiatives from last winter, such as distributing millions of free N-95 masks to pharmacies and supermarkets.
Many are still available unused in stores, the White House says, and the Biden administration plans to provide guidance to retailers “so that any additional inventory can be utilized through distribution to even more locations.”
“We have a whole series of tools that we use for mitigation, prevention of serious diseases, prevention of contagion. Masks should be one of them. They should not exalt themselves. They should not be decreased. They are one of the tools we have. they should use them whenever they want,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said Tuesday. in an event organized by “Health Issues”.
Jha said that masking for COVID-19 had become “unnecessarily complex” and that he hoped “lowering the temperature” on the issue could reduce fights over masking.
“We don’t ask or demand that people use every tool, but the more you use, the safer you’ll be,” Jha added.