The US is going to restart its free at-home covid test kit program

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The US government will again offer free at-home covid tests starting September 25th, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Wednesday. The kits are intended for use through the end of 2023; as with previous versions of the free test program, the kits will include four tests along with instructions for verifying extended expiration dates.

The government ended its most recent free test kit program on May 31st as cases and hospitalizations dwindled, but hospitalizations have been steadily rising since July, according to The New York Timescovid tracker.

According to the HHS release, the White House has invested $600 million for the new round of free kits, which it will purchase from 12 US manufacturers. The department writes that this is enough to cover 200 million over-the-counter tests.

The Times reports that if demand pushes high enough, manufacturers could sell those tests straight to retailers before the government. The article notes that despite their rise, hospitalizations are still low compared to previous phases of the covid pandemic when weekly covid-related deaths numbered in the tens of thousands.

New monovalent formulations of both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are now available following the FDA’s approval earlier this month. The new boosters were made based on omicron variants of the virus instead of the original strain. The CDC currently recommends the shot for anyone over the age of six months who has received as many as three mRNA shots previously.

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