Four sources with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO that the Biden administration intends to restart a collaboration with the U.S.
Postal Service to distribute free at-home Covid-19 testing to homes that request them. As the administration prepares for another probable winter spike, one of the most well-liked and regularly used pandemic initiatives is being revived.
Early in September, Biden administration officials suspended the USPS initiative due to worries that the government would run out of testing before winter due to the huge demand for free exams. They cautioned at the time that the government needed to conserve the “small residual stock” for upcoming Covid-19 surges because it could not afford to buy more tests without additional funds from Congress. By the time the initiative was terminated, more than 600 million at-home tests had been distributed to homes nationwide.
Health officials are concerned that the United States may experience another wave of Covid after a quiet for much of the summer and fall. In a larger “winter preparedness plan” that it will release on Thursday, the White House now intends to declare that it is temporarily reopening access to its stockpile of tests.
Then, starting on Thursday, households can order the tests via COVIDTests.gov.
A White House representative would comment on the program’s current state or reveal how many tests are still in the stockpile.
However, a source with knowledge of the strategy told POLITICO that the Department of Health and Human Services used restricted cash left over from the American Rescue Plan to buy more distributable at-home testing.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, weekly documented Covid-19 cases peaked at 261,268 in mid-October, but case counts have nearly doubled over the last two months. Public health professionals also warn that the prevalence of at-home testing for the virus means that many illnesses are no longer recorded. Additionally, the number of deaths from Covid-19 is increasing; 2,981 deaths were reported in the first week of December, the first weekly increase since August.
The last two winters saw large increases in the U.S., which put pressure on hospitals and caused nationwide disruptions in the labor market. Additionally, a surge of respiratory syncytial virus infections and an early, severe flu season have put hospitals under stress.
Biden health officials have claimed that the government has the resources to control Covid, citing the accessibility of current medications and immunizations as evidence. However, less than 14% of eligible Americans, including only 34% of those over 65, have opted for the most recent booster shot. In the interim, states and municipalities have withdrawn almost all Covid safeguards. The administration has needed help persuading Americans who have grown weary of the pandemic to keep their guard up.
Lack of funding has also hampered the official response. Congress has declined to provide further financing to reinforce stocks of tests, medicines, and vaccines despite receiving several warnings that its Covid operation is nearing financial ruin.
The White House has asked for more than $9 billion in Covid financing in the year-end budget package. But there is now little hope that Congress will add any more funding for the pandemic due to adamant Republican opposition.