Third round of free covid tests made available by the US government
The Biden administration previously pledged to make 1 billion free home tests available to American households and has so far distributed 350 million tests. Households were allowed to order four tests at a time in January and March.
Cases have increased in parts of the United States, although it is difficult to assess how far the highly transmissible omicron subvariants have spread. Home testing has become more common at the same time local health authorities have abandoned many mitigation efforts and reduced data collection. Positive home tests are only included in the official case count when the candidate reports their result or confirms it with a PCR test.
How big is the latest wave of coronavirus in the United States? Nobody really knows.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration warned that a summer spike in cases in the South could deplete the nation’s supply of tests and antivirals, and predicted that a possible fall surge could infect as many as to 100 million Americans.
By Tuesday, much of the Northeast — including most of New York and parts of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine — had reached high levels of community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, Washington and Hawaii also each have at least one county with a high level of transmission.
Despite the increase in cases and a modest increase in hospitalizations in several regions, the numbers remain well below the levels seen during the peak of the omicron wave in January.
In past outbreaks, home tests have been hard to find on store shelves. But test kits last for several months, and experts say having tests on hand can help mitigate transmission during a sudden spike in cases.
On Tuesday, the White House again urged Congress to fund President Biden’s covid preparedness efforts, including allocating more money to maintain the country’s testing capacity and provide treatment for people who test positive for the virus. Republicans blocked a covid funding deal over a dispute unrelated to immigration policy.
“Due to Congress’ inability to provide additional funding for the nation’s response to COVID-19, the administration cannot continue to make the kinds of federal investments necessary to maintain national test manufacturing capacity.” , the White House said in a statement on Tuesday. “This could compromise the federal government’s ability to provide free testing in the future.”