Free home COVID-19 test program to be suspended this week

The federal government's free at-home COVID-19 test program will be suspended Friday.

The federal government's free at-home COVID-19 test program will be suspended Friday. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images )

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government's free at-home COVID-19 test program will be suspended Friday, according to the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response.

Since November, residential households in the U.S. have been able to submit an order through for four individual rapid antigen tests. All orders placed on or before Friday will be fulfilled, according to the agency, an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"ASPR has delivered over 1.8 billion free COVID-19 tests to the American people through and direct distribution pathways and will continue distributing millions of tests per week to long-term care facilities, food banks, health centers, and schools," an agency spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.

The decision to suspend the program's sixth run comes amid falling COVID-19 cases as the nation's respiratory virus season winds down, according to the agency.

Last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the worst of the season may be over but warned that COVID-19 levels remain elevated across the country.

"While the respiratory virus season is likely past its peak, it is definitely not over," the agency said. "There is still a lot of respiratory virus activity, so it's not time to let our guard down."

Rates of COVID-19-related hospitalizations remain elevated but are decreasing in some parts of the country, CDC data shows. Still, thousands of people are being hospitalized with COVID-19 each week: more than 17,000 during the week ending Feb. 24, according to the CDC.

An agency spokesperson says the agency reserves the right to reopen the testing program if needed.

The government previously suspended the rapid test distribution program in May after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. It was reopened Sept. 25.

Residents who haven't placed an order since then can now place two, which will provide eight tests in total, according to the U.S. Postal Service. Each order includes four rapid antigen COVID-19 tests.

These tests can be taken at home and can be used regardless of whether someone has symptoms. The tests should work through the end of the year; some of the dates on the labels may show that they're expired, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended those dates.

The CDC recommends that people test if they have any COVID-19-like symptoms including a sore throat, a runny nose, loss of smell or taste or a fever.

People may also want to test before they're going to be a part of a large event, like a concert or a conference, particularly if they aren't up-to-date on their vaccines. Antiviral medications are available to treat both COVID-19 and flu, and testing can help determine which is needed.

More information on free testing resources is available on the site or at 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).

Contributing: Deidre McPhillips

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