With US health officials preparing to distribute Free Covid-19 test at home again, those stocking up during the omicron bull run may wonder if they’re still good.
Starting Thursday, every US household can re-order up to four free express packs mail test kits for a limited time, part of the White House’s effort to combat a possible spike in infections this winter. Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rise, monitored daily by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public health professionals are also concerned about cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and flu hospitalization is at its highest level in more than a decade.
“We don’t want this winter to be like last winter or the winter before it,” Covid-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said at a news conference on Thursday. The program will provide “another easy option for accessing testing when there is greater need, just like it is now.”
Authorities are urging people to get tested when they have symptoms, before and after traveling during the holiday season or visiting immunocompromised or vulnerable people in the home. According to the White House, the tests will start being sent out on December 19. But how long are they good?
The Food and Drug Administration has extend shelf life of 14 brands tested. Consumers can look up their specific brand and even batch number to see the exact expiration date. Brands include iHealth, from a subsidiary of Andon Health in China, BinaxNow of Abbott Laboratories and Flowfex of ACON Labs Inc. now lasts up to 12 months, 15 months and 21 months respectively.
The FDA advises against using at-home Covid tests that have passed their expiration date because tests and their components can deteriorate over time. The agency typically allows at-home testing for four to six months and extends the expiration date once the company conducts the study. However, some state health officials have said that at-home tests can be used after the expiration date. Test kits include information about integrated quality control measures, such as the pink-purple line in Abbott’s BinaxNow test.
For those who test positive at home, there is now a website to report results anonymously. CareEvolution, a healthcare technology company, and the National Institutes of Health launched a website on November 22 called Count my tests.
In the meantime, experts recommend preventive steps to reduce the risk of disease. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene again Recommendations Wear a mask in indoor public places and outdoor crowded places. Los Angeles and Oregon do the same.
The administration has asked Congress for additional funding for its Covid response, but so far that request has not been fulfilled. The U.S. is offering trials with stock remaining after suspending the program this summer and funds remaining from the American Rescue Plan.
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