Free rapid tests available again in preparation for possible winter COVID surge

Rapid COVID-19 test kits
The Biden administration is making free coronavirus tests available to U.S. households again. COVID-19 cases have been on the rise since Thanksgiving.
(Joseph Prezioso / AFP/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is again making free coronavirus tests available to all U.S. households as it unveils contingency plans for potential COVID-19 surges this winter.

After a three-month hiatus, the administration Thursday began making four rapid tests available to all American households through, said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the program. COVID-19 cases have shown a marked increase after the Thanksgiving holiday, and further increases are projected from indoor gatherings and travel around Christmas and New Year’s.

The administration is putting personnel and equipment on standby should they be needed to help overwhelmed hospitals and nursing homes, as was necessary in earlier waves of the disease. So far, there have been no requests for assistance, but surge teams, ventilators and personal protective equipment are ready, the official said.


The Biden administration is also urging states and local governments to do more to encourage people to get the updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, which scientists say are more effective at protecting against serious illness and death from the currently circulating coronavirus variants. The administration is reiterating best practices to nursing homes and long-term care facilities for virus prevention and treatment and is urging them as well as governments to encourage vulnerable populations to get the new shots.

Long COVID illnesses contributed to about 3,500 deaths in the U.S. through the end of June 2022, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dec. 13, 2022

The planning comes as the administration has struggled to persuade most Americans to get the updated boosters as cases and deaths have declined from pandemic highs and many people have embraced a return to most of their pre-pandemic activities.

The official said funding for the new tests has been re-allocated from other coronavirus programs while the White House struggles to get congressional buy-in for additional COVID-19 emergency funding.

The official declined to detail how much is being spent on the new tests or from which programs the funds were diverted.