COVID-19 tests provided through the federal government are photographed in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. The free rapid tests will soon be available by mail.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Free COVID-19 rapid tests are once again available to all Americans as government officials anticipate an uptick in cases following upcoming indoor holiday gatherings.
Four free tests per household can be ordered from covid.gov/tests starting Thursday and will start shipping next week.
The federal government urges people to test themselves when they have symptoms, and before visiting with family.
This is the fourth round of free rapid tests this year. According to an NPR report, the program was suspended in September after the White House said Congress had denied requests for more funding for the tests. Since then, the Biden administration shuffled around funds to buy more tests for the national stockpile, an official said.
Americans with health insurance and those on Medicare can still secure eight at-home COVID-19 tests for free each month.
The federal government also will distribute at-home tests to thousands of federally supported senior facilities and at hundreds of food banks, according to a New York Times report.
Locally, increases in COVID-19 and flu cases, along with an unseasonal wave of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, are straining health care resources.
In recent weeks, Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital has rescheduled approximately 50 pre-scheduled, non-emergency procedures and surgeries per week to help free up hospital beds and caregivers needed to help the surge of ill children. Patients who urgently need surgeries and procedures will continue to receive them, according to a news release.
The health system’s other hospitals in Utah are currently around 90% of capacity with respiratory and influenza patients. Flu cases typically peak in January or February.
Intermountain experts on Thursday urged people to get their influenza vaccine and COVID-19 boosters.
Last month, University of Utah Health officials cautioned, in the face of relaxed safety measures, that respiratory viruses are increasing rapidly across the nation, stirring worries about a potential “tripledemic.”
“The real concern in this term ‘tripledemic’ comes from the idea that they all may hit about the same time,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah and director of epidemiology at Primary Children’s Hospital, in a statement.
“This could overwhelm many of our health systems,” he said.
Health systems are already struggling with staff shortages and exhaustion after almost three years of COVID-19, according to the statement.
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