More free COVID tests from the government will soon become available, even for those who already received their first shipment, President Joe Biden announced during his State of the Union address.
In his remarks Tuesday, Biden said that in addition to starting a new antiviral initiative, his administration would allow people in the U.S. to order another round of free tests from the government.
Biden said that starting next week, the administration would make available four more free tests to U.S. households through COVIDTests.gov, which has sent more than 270 million free tests to nearly 70 million households since it launched in mid-January.
As of Wednesday morning, the website was updated with a message that read "starting next week, every home in the U.S. will be able to order an additional set of 4 tests."
Biden used his State of the Union address to announce that his administration was launching a “test-to-treat” initiative to provide free antiviral pills at pharmacies to those who test positive for the virus.
An antiviral pill from Pfizer has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 by 90%. By the end of the month, the administration says, 1 million pills will be available, with double that ready for use in April.
A White House official said the “test-to-treat” plan will initially roll out in hundreds of pharmacies across the country, including CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger locations. Those who test positive at the sites will be able to obtain the antiviral pills on the spot for immediate use.
COVID-19 cases have fallen to their lowest level since last summer in recent weeks, after a winter spike from the highly-transmissible omicron variant. Deaths, though, which lag cases by weeks, are still elevated, with an average of nearly 1,700 people dying in the U.S. each day. U.S. officials emphasize that most instances of serious illnesses and death in the U.S. occur among those who are unvaccinated or who have not received a booster dose of the vaccines.
Earlier Tuesday, Biden extended the federal government’s 100% reimbursement of COVID-19 emergency response costs to states, tribes and territories through July 1, the White House announced Tuesday.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients informed governors on a conference call that Biden is approving the extension of Federal Emergency Management Agency support to help continue FEMA-backed efforts like vaccination clinics, mass testing sites and surging hospital resources to deal with local case spikes.
“FEMA’s priority throughout the response to COVID-19 has been to coordinate and provide the necessary resources and personnel states, tribes and territories need to adequately respond to the pandemic,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said. “Today’s extension of the 100% cost-share through July 1, 2022, builds on our efforts to assist impacted communities across state and federal levels.”
The extension through the first half of the year is a sign that the White House continues to see a need for federal resources in combating COVID-19 even as Biden tries to guide the country to live with the coronavirus while case counts recede.