The federal government is expanding its program through which people can order free Covid-19 tests—allowing for four more tests per household—ahead of a potential increase in cases during the holiday season.
The United States Postal Service announced Monday that people can now order an additional pack—containing four tests—per residential address, expanding on the program it brought back earlier this fall.
In September, the USPS announced the return of the program after various pauses to conserve supply, but limited orders to one four-pack of tests per address.
If you did not place an order since the program restarted in late September, you’re eligible to order two four-packs of tests.
The tests can be ordered at COVIDTests.gov or by calling 1-800-232-0233 from 8 a.m. to midnight eastern.
The expansion of the free testing program comes as Covid-19 numbers nationwide are slightly increasing and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to take steps against spreading illnesses during the holidays. Over the last week, test positivity has increased 0.1%, hospital admissions for Covid-19 have increased 8.6% and deaths have increased 9.6%, according to the CDC—though deaths and hospitalizations still remain well below early 2022 levels.
Some tests mailed out by the government may say they’re expired, but the Food and Drug Administration extended those dates, so the tests are most likely okay to use. A full list of extended expiration dates is available here.
The government launched its free at-home test program in January 2022, but it was paused from September to December out of fear tests were running out ahead of a potential surge during the holidays. The free program was then up and running again from December through June 2023, when it was again paused “to preserve remaining supply.”
What To Watch For
How bad respiratory viruses like Covid-19, RSV and the flu are this year. The CDC is predicting the winter respiratory disease season “will likely have a similar number of total hospitalizations compared to last year,” which will be higher than what was seen before the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s unlikely that the U.S. will see “very large waves of severe disease or hospitalization,” according to the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, because of “widespread, population-level protective immunity.”