- COVID tests were no longer free this year, but a renewed federal program is sending them to households that ask.
- Some older tests may still be used — “some” being the critical word.
- Michigan’s COVID cases continue a small-but-steady climb.
With COVID cases on the rise and winter months ahead, Michiganders will once again be able to get free COVID tests from the federal government — up to four per household.
The Biden administration, which on Wednesday announced the return of free at-home tests, also urged Americans not to toss out the now-nearly-forgotten tests in their hallway closets and bathrooms.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended expiration dates on many tests and issued a list of tests that are still good.
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These tests, which typically deliver results in 10 to 15 minutes and are designed to detect currently circulating COVID-19 variants, are intended for use through the end of 2023.
The testing push is part of the administration’s effort to get in front of a possible surge in respiratory illnesses this fall and winter.
In its announcement Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it had extended $600 million in contracts to 12 COVID-19 test manufacturers based in seven U.S. states for even more tests.
For the fourth year in a row, health officials warned of a triple respiratory threat from flu, COVID and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended newly formulated COVID vaccines for children 6 months and older and adults. It already has recommended new RSV shots for infants and older adults. On Friday, CDC vaccine advisors are expected to consider a vaccine against RSV for pregnant women.
How do I get tests?
The free tests are the restart of a program that began in early 2022, at the height of the spread of the omicron variant that packed hospitals across the country.
Residents can log onto COVID.gov/tests to order their tests.
Additionally, free home tests are available at some libraries.
For people who prefer to be tested in a clinic, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services provides a list of free test sites across the state including MDHHS Community Sites. The CDC also provides a searchable list of free testing sites across the country.
Michiganders can also call the state’s COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 for help finding free test sites as well.
When should I use them?
The CDC recommends that people with COVID symptoms test immediately after symptom onset then again 48 hours later if the first at-home test is negative. People with symptoms should also consider checking with a doctor about testing for other viral infections.
For those who have been exposed to the virus, the CDC recommends testing three times: once at least 5 full days after their exposure, a second time 48 hours later, and a third time 48 hours after that, if the first two tests are negative.
Why doesn’t my drug store have the new COVID shot yet?
The CDC recommended newly formulated COVID vaccines for children 6 months and older and adults just last week. That allowed drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna to start shipping both versions of the vaccines — pediatric and adult versions — to doctors, clinics, and major pharmacy chains, including Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, Kroger, and Meijer.
Doses are still making their way through the supply chain, so Michiganders may have to shop around to find a pharmacy with the vaccines they need.