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Biden administration restarts program that delivers free at-home COVID-19 test kits


Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

The U.S. Postal Service will begin delivering free at-home COVID-19 tests again, the Biden administration announced on Thursday. Four tests will be available for every household and can be ordered online at covid.gov/tests. The tests can also be ordered by calling 1-800-232-0233. Other questions related to the test distribution can be answered at the phone number, in either English or one of more than 150 other languages.

Tests will begin shipping next week, according to a written statement issued by the White House. The federal government will also be sending test kits to long-term care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds, as well as food banks around the county that will make them available to their clients.

“COVID-19 testing is an important tool to help mitigate and slow the spread of the virus. The Administration is encouraging Americans to use at-home COVID-19 tests when they have symptoms of COVID-19, before and after traveling for the holidays, or visiting indoors with immunocompromised or vulnerable individuals,” the statement said.

The federal government began delivering free at-home COVID-19 tests, but stopped in September, after Republicans in the Senate threatened to filibuster any bill containing more funding for the test kit program or other pandemic-related control and relief efforts.

The free tests are part of what the Biden administration is calling its “COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan.” In addition to mail-delivery of test kits, the White House is increasing its efforts to make the latest bivalent coronavirus vaccine booster more accessible, including changing regulations to allow staff at long-term care facilities to administer booster shots to residents, and directing hospital to encourage unvaccinated patients to be immunized before they are discharged.

According to the latest statistics from the federal government, only about 15.5 percent of Americans eligible to receive the most recent COVID-19 booster have done so.

The administration also said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is moving stockpiles of virus mitigation supplies and PPE to regional centers around the country to facilitate distribution if shortages occur. In case local health systems are overwhelmed as cases of COVID-19 increase along with seasonal spikes in flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), HHS has plans in place to dispatch teams of healthcare workers to help relieve the burden.

As part of the winter preparedness plan, the CDC has published online a personal COVID-19 plan checklist to help people understand what to do if they are experiencing symptoms of the virus or test positive.

The Biden administration is still lobbying Congress in an effort to have lawmakers provide increased funding for COVID-19 mitigation.

“We’ve been very clear to Congress that, like, COVID is not over, it’s still around,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said in an interview on Thursday. “We want to continue doing everything we can to protect and save American lives. And that obviously requires funding.”

There are no plans for a vote on further funding as Congress prepares for its holiday break. When the new Congress returns in January, the House of Representatives will be controlled by Republicans. Leaders of the new House majority have already said they will likely oppose any increase in pandemic mitigation and relief.


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