We're focused on being prepared for Covid this winter, no matter what the virus throws at us: Dr. Ashish Jah

The Biden administration is making rapid Covid tests available for free again this winter through a limited round of ordering.

Households can now order a total of four rapid Covid tests for free at CovidTests.gov. Orders will start shipping next week, just days before families gather for the Christmas holiday, and deliveries will continue in the following weeks, according to the White House.

The Biden administration shut down the free at-home Covid test program in September because Congress did not pass additional funding to replenish the U.S. stockpile.

The White House decided to shift existing money to buy more tests and relaunch the popular program as Covid cases started increasing again, a senior administration official told reporters during a call Wednesday evening.

“We feel confident that we are going to have enough tests to get through this next round, four per household, in the coming weeks,” the official said.

Take home COVID-19 self testing kits provided by the District of Columbia government, which provides city residents four free take home tests per day, are seen in this illustration taken January 11, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

The relaunch of the free at-home test program is part of the Biden administration’s preparedness plan for Covid this winter. Covid infections are increasing again as hospital emergency departments are already battling a surge of patients sick with the flu and respiratory syncytial virus.

The Biden administration will make federal medical teams available to strained hospitals as requested by state governments, the official said. Supplies such as personal protective equipment and ventilators will be pre-prepositioned to be given out to states as needed, the official said.

The administration is also focusing on increasing vaccination rates in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which house some of the people most vulnerable to severe illness from Covid.

The federal government will send out a playbook that calls on nursing homes to keep all residents up to date on the vaccines, offer treatment to residents who do catch Covid and take steps to improve indoor air quality, according to a White House fact sheet.

Health Secretary Xavier Becerra will send a letter to governors, highlighting how vaccination rates in nursing homes in their states compare to others, according to the White House. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will also reach out to jurisdictions with the lowest vaccination rates in nursing homes to remind them of steps they can take to increase coverage.

The federal government is also calling on hospitals to offer Covid vaccination to patients who are unvaccinated before they are discharged.

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