In recent weeks, the U.S. has seen an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19,674 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 from Sept. 16-25. To limit the spread of the virus, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the reopening of, offering free COVID-19 tests to households across the country.

The decision came four months after several insurance companies stopped covering the costs of the tests, making people pay out of their pockets.

This initiative attempts to enhance the nation's preparedness to mitigate the spread of the virus over the next few months. The move will also strengthen the U.S.' responses to other pandemic threats and challenges in the future.

SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, can spread from an infected person's mouth or nose when they cough, sneeze, talk, sing or breathe through tiny particles or droplets called aerosols. The virus also spreads when a person comes in contact with contaminated surfaces.

The diagnostic tests can show if you have an active COVID-19 infection. Additionally, the newly available COVID-19 tests have the capability to detect new strains of the virus, including "Eris" (EG.5), a variant of the Omicron form of the coronavirus that has been reported in multiple states across the U.S.

The HHS announced that every household in the U.S. can place an order four four free COVID-⁠19 rapid antigen tests and have it delivered directly to their home from Sept. 25.

How to get free tests

People can order the free at-home COVID-19 tests from the website. The United States Postal Service (USPS) will ship these orders free of charge starting from Oct. 2.

It's important to note that each residential address is limited to one order.

If people encounter difficulties ordering online, they can also place an order by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).

These free tests are intended for use through the end of 2023, and will include clear instructions on how to verify extended expiration dates.

According to the official statement from HHS, this initiative includes an investment of $600 million in 12 domestic COVID-19 test manufacturers through the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). This move will boost the country's ability to produce tests and secure around 200 million new over-the-counter COVID-19 tests for future use.

"Manufacturing COVID-19 tests in the United States strengthens our preparedness for the upcoming fall and winter seasons, reduces our reliance on other countries," said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O'Connell.

These efforts complement the ongoing efforts of ASPR to distribute free COVID-19 tests to long-term care facilities, low-income senior housing, uninsured individuals, and underserved communities, with 500 million tests provided to date through these channels.