In an effort to avoid potential shortages during an increase in coronavirus cases, which have historically occurred during colder months, the Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to once again order up to four free tests per household.
The United States Postal Service will distribute free tests, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, and orders can be submitted at COVIDTests.gov beginning on September 25.
According to the agency, funding has been given to twelve manufacturers that would create 200 million over-the-counter tests to refill federal stockpiles for use by the government, as well as enough tests to satisfy demand for tests ordered online.
These factories have hundreds of employees throughout seven states. That, according to federal officials, will help prevent supply chain problems that have in the past led to shortages of at-home COVID tests produced abroad during spikes in coronavirus cases.
The website will continue to accept orders through the holidays, according to Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparation and response at HHS, and “we reserve the right to keep it open even longer if we’re starting to see an increase in cases.”
If there is a need for these tests, O’Connell added, “we want to make sure that they are made freely available to the American people in this way.”
But right now, getting through the holidays and ensuring that people may take a test if they intend to see Grandma for Thanksgiving are our main priorities.
The tests are planned for use by the end of the year and are meant to detect COVID variations that are currently circulating. However, according to the agency, they will also contain instructions on how to confirm extended expiration dates.
The program comes after four earlier rounds in which federal officials and the U.S. More than 755 million tests were given for free to homes across the country by the Postal Service.
The department noted that it is also intended to support ongoing federal initiatives to distribute free COVID tests to long-term care facilities, schools, low-income senior housing, uninsured people, and underserved communities, which are currently distributing 4 million tests per week and have distributed 500 million tests to date.
Manufacturers will be able to spread out the 200 million tests they will create for federal use over an 18-month period, according to O’Connell.
This means that producers can concentrate on filling orders if demand for home tests increases through the internet or at American retailers as COVID cases rise across the nation, but they will also have a backup market for the tests they create when demand is low.