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Third round of free coronavirus tests made available by U.S. government

The Biden administration again urged Congress to authorize covid funding ahead of possible surges this summer and fall

American households can now order eight additional at-home coronavirus tests. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Households can now order eight more free at-home coronavirus tests, the White House said Tuesday, giving Americans access to an additional supply of rapid tests ahead of possible summer and fall surges.

“As the highly transmissible subvariants of Omicron drive a rise in cases in parts of the country, free and accessible tests will help slow the spread of the virus,” the White House said in a statement. The tests are available at covid.gov/tests.

The Biden administration previously committed to making 1 billion at-home tests available to American households at no charge and has so far distributed 350 million tests. Households were allowed to order four tests at a time in January and March.

Cases have been rising in some parts of the United States, though it is difficult to gauge how widely the highly transmissible omicron subvariants have spread. Home testing has become more common at the same moment that local health officials have dropped many mitigation efforts and scaled back data collection. Positive home tests are only included in the official case count when the test-taker reports their result or confirms it with a PCR test.

How big is the latest U.S. coronavirus wave? No one really knows.

The Biden administration earlier this month warned that a summertime spike in cases across the South could exhaust the nation’s supply of tests and antivirals, and predicted that a possible fall surge could infect as many as 100 million Americans.

As of 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 community levels of 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 rise in cases and a modest increase in hospitalizations in several regions, the numbers remain far below the levels seen during the peak of the January omicron wave.

During past surges, at-home tests have been difficult to find on store shelves. But the test kits last for several months, and experts say that having tests on hand can help mitigate transmission during a sudden spike in cases.

Tracking the coronavirus

The White House on Tuesday again urged Congress to fund President Biden’s covid preparedness efforts, including allocating more money to maintain the nation’s testing capacity and provide treatments to people who test positive for the virus. Republicans have been blocking a covid funding deal because of an unrelated dispute over immigration policy.

“Due to Congress’s failure to provide additional funding for the nation’s COVID-19 response, the Administration cannot continue making the types of federal investments needed to sustain domestic testing manufacturing capacity,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday. “This may jeopardize the federal government’s ability to provide free tests moving forward.”

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