RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Starting on Monday, you can order COVID-19 tests from the federal government at no cost to you. The tests are coming at a time when the Triangle is seeing a rise in cases.

Since the public health emergency ended, health experts can’t track exact numbers of COVID-19 cases or hospitalizations, but they said they’ve seen more and more people being hospitalized statewide with the virus and they are expecting cases to just keep rising.

“Over the last 4-6 weeks, we have seen an increase in COVID hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. David Weber with UNC Health said.

Health experts attribute the rise in cases to kids being back in school, people spending more time indoors as temperatures drop, and some immunity from previous vaccinations going down. But there is some good news.

“We’re mitigating death by the fact that the great majority of people in the US have some immunity, either from vaccines or natural infection or both,” Dr. Weber said.

For the free tests, households across the country can get up to four free tests sent right to them. You can order them here. (COVIDtests.gov) Dr. Weber with UNC Health says while the tests are a great tool in fighting the virus, anyone over six months old should consider getting a round of the latest vaccine approved by the FDA and CDC. He says flu shots and covid shots are safe to get together, but he does have some advice if you’re only picking one.

“The most important vaccine at the present time is the covid vaccine,” Dr. Weber said.

Dr. Weber says vaccines are especially important for people over the age of 60 and they should talk with their own doctor about when and how to schedule those vaccines together.