COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are gradually increasing in the United States, as two new variants gain a foothold in the nation. And with that rise, more people are looking for COVID test kits.
Hospitalizations rose by nearly nine percent and deaths by nearly 11 percent in late August/early September, according to the latest tracking data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Can you still get free COVID tests?
However, the U.S. government suspended in June a pandemic-era program that shipped free COVID-19 tests to Americans.
Don’t give up hope though: There are still low- and no-cost options out there for folks who need test kits.
To start with, check whether the COVID tests you already have on hand are still viable.
Every test kit carries an expiration date, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now says some tests may be effective past that date based on additional information from test manufacturers. In fact, the agency maintains an online checklist of tests and their extended expiration dates, based on lot numbers.
“An extended expiration date means the manufacturer provided data showing that the shelf-life is longer than was known when the test was first authorized,” the FDA says.
Are COVID tests effective against new variants?
Another piece of good news: Experts say the current at-home tests should be effective in detecting the new Eris variant (EG.5), which currently causes about one in every five infections, according to CDC tracking data.
That’s also true for the Fornax variant (FL.1.5.1), which is causing about 15 percent of U.S. infections.
Both variants are descendants of the Omicron variant, and current tests are designed to detect a part of the COVID virus that’s less likely to