The federal government will be sending four additional free Covid tests to each U.S. household starting in the week beginning Nov. 27.
The Department of Health and Human Services released a new batch of test shipments on Monday, as the holiday season began — a period when public health officials typically expect Covid, influenza, colds and the respiratory syncytial viral to increase.
orders for the government’s five previous rounds of Covid tests can be placed online via Covid.gov. People who did not take advantage of the previous offer in September, can still order four rapid antigen test for a total eight tests. No health insurance details are required. Only a name, and an address is needed.
The order form warns users that the FDA has extended expiration dates for many of the approved tests. The FDA’s regularly-updated list allows users to check the actual expiration date of their Covid test.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Covid hospitalizations and death rates both increased by around 9% in the week ending November 11 — according to the latest publicly available data. Just over 8% of PCR test results were positive. The test positivity rate remained flat. Overall, Covid hospitalizations and deaths are lower than previous years.
Why Covid testing is still useful
Dr. Amesh Adalja is an infectious disease specialist and senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. He said that people do not need to test as rigorously as they did during the peak of the pandemic. For those at risk of severe illness, such as those with underlying conditions or who are older than 50 years old, identifying a Covid is crucial to receiving treatment.
Adalja explained that if someone is at high risk, it’s beneficial to test in order to receive antiviral treatment.
Adalja explained that testing is beneficial for protecting loved ones. “The other use is, ‘I will be around high-risk individuals, and I want to ensure I’m contagious.
Adalja said that a Covid test could help differentiate an infection from other respiratory virus infections. This task has become more challenging as Covid symptoms like loss of smell and taste have become less common. Covid is characterized by a sore neck and congestion, as with other illnesses.
According to the CDC , seasonal increases in flu and RSV spread have already been detected.
Adalja explained that if you are sick, have a fever or cough and take the Covid test, it is positive, then you know what you need to do. You can then take the necessary steps to isolate yourself or get a prescription of Paxlovid, if you are eligible.
He said that people should still make their testing decisions based upon their individual vulnerability to Covid. There is no longer “one size fits all” recommendation.
Many people have become risk-climatized, and they recognize Covid as a disease that is endemic. Adalja explained that people may not think about it any differently from other respiratory viruses.
What should you do if your Covid test is positive
Adalja explained that home tests only show a double line when “enough virus is present to trigger a negative.” If someone tests negative but feels ill, Adalja recommends waiting a few days and then testing again. Adalja said that people who are at high risk should get a “more official test”: a PCR administered in a healthcare facility.
CDC Guidelines recommend that most people isolate themselves for five days if they test positive. This is regardless of whether or not symptoms develop. The day symptoms appear counts as the first day, even if it means starting the clock again after a positive test.
If you have been fever-free without medication for 24 hours and your symptoms are improving, then the CDC recommends ending isolation after five days. The CDC recommends a 10 day isolation if you are not experiencing any symptoms or if the infection has caused shortness of breathe or a hospital visit.