Every family in the US will be eligible to request up to eight free Covid tests this winter to help prevent spreading the virus to loved ones.
Families were offered four tests per household at the end of September, but this has now been expanded to a further four swabs, which cost $12 per pack.
The tests, available through a $600 million grant for testing providers, can be ordered online at CovidTests.gov and take at least two weeks to arrive.
They are offered before the Christmas and New Year holidays, but the update arrives too late for Thanksgiving, and orders must have already been placed to guarantee the arrival of the swabs.
Covid cases are currently rising again, with wastewater monitoring showing a five per cent increase in the concentration of Covid particles over the week to November 8. Flu cases are also increasing, with the number reported increasing by 60 per cent in the week to November 12. the latest available.
Families were offered four tests per household at the end of September, but are now being offered four more. About one in ten households have requested testing so far.
The above shows estimates of Covid cases based on wastewater surveillance. Shows cases are rising again
The above shows flu cases in the US, revealing that they are also on the rise.
A total of 14.5 million households have requested free Covid tests so far, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told DailyMail.com.
Dawn O’Connell, head of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), which helped with the Covid response, said: “We are going to see families reunite with their older loved ones and their younger loved ones (later this anus) .
‘It is important that they can protect their loved ones from Covid as we approach the winter months.
“So we think opening (CovidTests.Gov) right before the winter holidays really start is going to be very important for the American people, to provide this access to the four free tests again.”
He added: “We know testing will be good for the next few months, (but) it won’t be good forever.”
“And that’s why we think it’s important to move forward and put them in the hands of the American people so they can use them and protect themselves as we head into winter.”
The Biden Administration has invested $600 million in local testing companies that will manufacture about 200 million swabs.
The tests are rapid antigen tests, which use a swab that is placed in the nose and mouth and then mixed with a solution to give results within 30 minutes.
Online orders take seven to 12 days to ship, the website says, and then will take several more days to reach homes.
Some of the swabs delivered may say they are past their expiration date, ASPR said, but they noted that the Food and Drug Administration has already approved extending their shelf life.
Covid tests are also available at pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, although one test is priced at $10 or two at $23.99.
The tests on offer can only detect Covid and not other seasonal threats such as flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
The $600 million has been invested in 12 domestic manufacturers and is money left over from the last Covid bill that passed in Congress.
Congress has managed to recover $30 billion in unspent relief funds following an agreement between Biden and Republicans to raise the debt ceiling. But officials said there was still enough money left to spend on more testing.
CovidTests.gov first opened in January 2022 to distribute 500 million tests to households, with each household able to request four swabs.
Official data shows that the Covid positivity rate, or the proportion of tests that detect the virus, is no longer falling. This suggests infections may be rising again
And this graph shows how the number of people admitted to hospital with the flu begins to increase as winter approaches.
This map shows flu activity by state. Reveals that activity is greater in Louisiana and Puerto Rico
It was relaunched again in December 2022, with households again allowed to order four tests each, and has now relaunched for the third time in September this year.
Wastewater surveillance reported by Biobot suggests that Covid cases are increasing, with the concentration of the virus increasing from 425 to 444 copies per milliliter (ml) of wastewater.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also indicates that cases may be increasing, and the positivity rate remained at eight percent for two weeks through the week ending November 11.
Covid hospitalizations are also increasing: admissions reached 16,000 in the week to November 11, compared to almost 15,000 the week before. However, this figure is still well below the 24,000 recorded at the same time last year.
CDC data also indicates an increase in flu infections, with 3,002 recorded in the week to November 12, 60 per cent more than at the same time the previous week.
CDC experts say this number is grossly undercounted because most people who get the flu don’t get tested or have their infection recorded.
Covid vaccines have also been made available to everyone over six months old to help prevent infections, although authorities say only people over 75 need the jabs.
The latest data through early November shows that 36 million adults had received the vaccine, including 3.5 million children, out of more than 329 million people who are eligible.
For comparison, an estimated 91 million Americans (or 34 percent of the adult population) have come forward to get a flu shot.
And 11 million people over 60, or 13 percent of the age group, have come forward to receive the vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection.