A friendly PSA: If you haven’t yet ordered your free at-home Covid tests through the US Postal Service, you’ve only got a few more days to get that done.
“Ordering through this program will be suspended on Friday, September 2, because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests,” federal officials have announced on the government’s Covid test website.
Each household is eligible for 16 rapid antigen tests through the USPS website, up from four free tests when the program launched earlier this year. After September 2, it will still be possible to get the tests covered through health insurance, whether directly or with a reimbursement.
In the spring, the Biden administration hoped to receive $10 billion from Congress to continue funding the pandemic response, but a deal for the funding did not succeed. As a result, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid response coordinator, said earlier in August that federal officials needed to stop spending so much money on tests and instead allocate resources for new vaccine booster shots that are designed to protect against the BA.4 and BA.5 coronavirus variants circulating around the country.
Those vaccines are expected to be available in September. They are “coming very, very soon,” Jha said at an event sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, according to CNN. He urged people to get the shot once they’re eligible. “These are substantial upgrades in our vaccines in terms of their ability to prevent infection to prevent transmission…[A]ll the data suggests it should be highly effective against the new variants.”
According to available data, Covid cases are now falling in the United States after surging this summer, but BA.4 and BA.5 remain widespread and are highly contagious. Jha noted that hospitals could come under strain this fall and winter because the flu season will kick in alongside another potential surge in Covid cases, particularly after states have continued to relax masking restrictions. “Under normal non-pandemic times, flu really stretches our health care system,” he said. “Throwing Covid on top of that, our health care system is going to get into serious trouble unless we are very proactive about preventing it, if we do nothing and just sort of hope for the best.”