Offers free covid tests in US as part of winter program

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday relaunched a program offering free coronavirus tests to American families through the mail, part of a new government push to prevent virus cases and hospitalizations as winter approaches.

The program, which was suspended in September after distributing more than 600 million tests, is restarting after federal officials drowned out what the White House said were “existing, limited funds.” Families can now order up to four tests covidtests.govWith shipment starting next week.

The tests are part of a broader Covid-19 “winter preparedness plan” that the White House released on Thursday, reflecting concerns about a cold weather spike in virus cases across the country. Cases have risen by about 55 percent in the past two weeks, while deaths have increased by 65 percent. Hospitalizations have soared by more than 20 percent, adding pressure to medical centers already overwhelmed by patients. Influenza and respiratory syncytial virusor RSV

Two omicron subtypes, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, has largely driven the rise in coronavirus cases. They are creating now Two-thirds of the cases In the United States and other recent variants, earlier immune defenses are more easily circumvented.

The Biden administration is urging Americans to update their defenses by getting one of the reformed booster shots introduced in September, but reaction to the new shots It is hot. Only about 14 percent of Americans age 5 and older have received an updated booster. Among people 65 and older, an age group that includes people particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, only about a third have received one of the new shots.

As part of the winter plan, the administration said it would expand those eligible to vaccinate the elderly to include nursing home staff.

The testing program at home is reopening as lawmakers on Capitol Hill scramble to finalize a spending package to fund the government through September. The Biden administration has asked for more than $9 billion in additional funding for the response to the pandemic, but Republicans have resisted calls for more Covid-19 spending, arguing that the administration has proven that. Reuse federal funds For virus-related requirements.

Funds from the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill passed last year are paying for the new round of at-home tests, a senior administration official told reporters on condition of anonymity Wednesday evening. Renewal of the program has angered Republicans, suggesting the federal government still has money for the pandemic response, despite calls for more.

Biden administration Started offering free home tests Demand for the postal service’s coronavirus test soared in January with the arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant. President Biden was there Criticized severely Federal officials have argued that they were proactive in buying them because they had not moved before to protect the tests for Americans, including schools and long-term care facilities.

The government continued to implement the at-home testing program as the year went on, allowing Americans to order additional rounds of tests. But the White House suspended the program in September, citing a lack of funding.

Americans with health insurance and Medicare can get up to eight free at-home tests every month. As part of its announcement Thursday, the White House said it will distribute at-home tests at thousands of federally supported senior facilities and hundreds of food banks.

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