Federal government to end free at-home COVID test program this week

By: - August 31, 2022 4:54 am

Public health leaders are concerned that COVID-19 case numbers may climb when colder weather drives people inside. (George Frey | Getty Images)

Those who planned to order their free COVID-19 tests from the federal government but never did shouldn’t tarry. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that it will suspend the program Friday, citing funding. 

Tests and testing remain available throughout New Hampshire at pharmacies and medical offices but not through the mail.

The news from the federal government comes as COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations have declined. But public health experts have voiced concerns that numbers may climb when colder weather drives people inside and holidays bring large groups together.

An alert at the top of federal Health and Human Services test website (covid.gov/tests) states: “Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests.” 

People can place orders for free at-home tests through the federal program until Friday unless they have already exceeded the limit of 16 tests per household. 

Those seeking tests locally can purchase them at most pharmacies or the state’s liquor stores. The “resources” page at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’s COVID-19 website (covid19.nh.gov) has a long list of hospitals, urgent care clinics, and medical offices, with contact information, that offer testing. 

The department says many health insurance plans cover the cost of COVID-19 tests without a copay or deductible for people with symptoms of COVID-19. Those who have no insurance or a plan that does not fully cover the cost may be eligible for coverage through a Medicaid COVID-19 plan. The department is directing that group to submit an application through nheasy.nh.gov, under “COVID-19 Group.”

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 have dropped considerably in New Hampshire since a spike in December. In its last COVID-19 update, issued Thursday, the department said three people had died of COVID-19 the week before. The number of people currently infected with COVID-19 is unreliable because not all positive test results are reported to the department. As of Tuesday, 30 hospitals were treating 30 people for COVID-19 and 30 who were no longer infectious but remained too ill to be discharged, according to the New Hampshire Hospital Association COVID-19 website

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 72 percent of Granite Staters are fully vaccinated, 48 percent have received their first booster dose, and 29 percent have received a second dose. People ages 6 months and older are eligible for a vaccine. The state Department of Health and Human Services has a directory of vaccination sites on its website at vaccines.nh.gov.

The White House had requested $22.5 billion in pandemic spending to cover tests and other COVID-19 responses as part of a $1.5 trillion spending bill. The funding was eliminated over disputes about how it would be paid for. 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.