US brings back free at-home COVID-19 tests as cases continue to spike

Each household can request four tests starting September 25.

Evelyn Hockstein / reuters

The United States government is once again providing free COVID-19 tests following a summer that saw cases spike and the cost of at-home tests fall on individuals. Starting Monday, September 25, every household can request four free COVID-19 tests through the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) site The tests are intended for use through the end of 2023, with the HHS noting that previously distributed tests have extended expiration dates displayed here.

A previous program to supply free COVID-19 tests stopped in May following the end of the public health emergency. In that time, the government claims to have been restoring its stockpile. However, $600 million is now going towards the manufacturing of COVID-19 tests and subsequent purchase of 200 million for at-home use. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the free tests and further investment while getting his COVID-19 booster at an event in Washington, DC. "These critical investments will strengthen our nation's production levels of domestic at-home COVID-19 rapid tests and help mitigate the spread of the virus," Becerra said in a statement.

COVID-19 cases across the US started to increase in early July after months of decline. In the week of September 3 to 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported hospital admissions increased by 7.7 percent to 20,538, and deaths due to COVID-19 increased by 4.5 percent to 2.3 percent.

Two-plus months after the spike began, the HHS has acted and addressed the common sentiment of being "done" with the virus — despite its continued existence. "We know, if past is prologue, it'll circulate to a higher degree and spread, and cases will go up in the fall and winter seasons," Dawn O'Connell, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said in a statement. "Anticipating that that would be true again, or something similar, we want to make sure the American people have these tools." The new COVID-19 boosters are also rolling out across the country, with the CDC recommending everyone six months or older get the latest shot.