Free home COVID-19 tests are available for order from the US government

INDIANA – As many Americans look forward to embracing loved ones this Thanksgiving holiday, health experts are encouraging safe gathering habits amid a mix of seasonal viruses in circulation.

The latest CDC data shows cases of flu, Covid-19 and RSV are picking up in most parts of the country, meaning many common public surfaces and heavily populated areas may potentially be contaminated.

However, there are a number of familiar precautions you can take to keep from catching an illness from fellow travelers or out-of-town visitors such as handwashing, opening windows when possible, and masking in areas with limited ventilation.

Vaccines are also available at hospitals and major retail pharmacy chains, experts stress.

Plus, each US household is now eligible to order an additional four at-home COVID-19 tests — for free.

The US government is offering to send an additional four at-home COVID-19 tests to eligible American homes to be delivered on November 27.

As of Monday, residential households in the US can submit an order through Covid.gov/tests for four individual rapid antigen COVID-19 tests. Orders will start to ship on November 27, according to USPS. People without an internet connection can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to request tests.

The US government had suspended the rapid test distribution program earlier in May, then reopened it in September. Residents who haven’t placed an order since the program reopened can place two orders, which will provide eight tests in total, according to USPS.

COVID-19 rapid tests can be taken at home and can be used regardless of whether someone has symptoms. The tests should work through the end of the year; some of the dates on the tests may show that they are expired, but the US Food and Drug Administration has extended those dates.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people test if they have any Covid-19-like symptoms including a sore throat, runny nose, loss of smell or taste, or a fever. People may also want to test before they are going to be a part of a large event, like a concert or a conference, particularly if people are not up-to-date on their vaccines. Antivirals are available to treat COVID-19 and flu, and testing can help determine which medication is needed.

COVID-19 hospital admissions and emergency department visits are once again on the rise after a few weeks of downturn, according to the CDC. For the week ending November 11, the percentage of COVID-related emergency department visits was 1.4%, or just over 16,200 people — similar to rates seen throughout this month and last month.

Overall, outpatient visits for flu-like illnesses are lower than they were at this time last year but higher than in the previous four seasons. CDC forecasting suggests that this respiratory virus season will result in about the same number of hospitalizations as last season.

COVID-19 hospital admissions and emergency department visits are once again on the rise after a few weeks of downturn, according to the CDC. For the week ending November 11, the percentage of COVID-related emergency department visits was 1.4%, or just over 16,200 people — similar to rates seen throughout this month and last month.

Overall, outpatient visits for flu-like illnesses are lower than they were at this time last year but higher than in the previous four seasons. CDC forecasting suggests that this respiratory virus season will result in about the same number of hospitalizations as last season.

Information: CNN