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December 28, 2021

New Jersey residents can get free, at-home COVID-19 saliva tests

The CDC plans to open a new testing clinic in the state, but a location has not been determined

Prevention COVID-19
NJ COVID-19 tests Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

New Jersey residents can get free, at-home COVID-19 saliva kits as part of an effort to expand testing access. Above, a nurse holds a saliva test developed by Rutgers University.

New Jersey is expanding its COVID-19 testing capacity as the highly-contagious omicron variant continues to spread across the state.

Any resident who needs to be tested for COVID-19 can receive a free, at-home saliva test as part of a new effort from the Department of Health and Vault Medical Services. Residents do not need to have symptoms to receive a test kit. 

To get a test, residents must create a Vault account. A phone number and birth date are needed to start an account, but an email address and credit card information are not required. 

Vault will then send the test kit via next-day delivery to the resident's address. A collection kit cannot be delivered to a PO Box address.

The saliva test should be completed as soon as possible after receiving the test kit. Once residents receive their kits, they will need to log into a virtual waiting room on Zoom. The test kit should not be opened before the collection session begins.

Wait times are about 15 minutes or less for a clinician and appointments are not necessary. The platform tends to be busiest in the 12 p.m. hour. Vault's operating hours are Sunday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Residents will complete the test while being observed by a collection supervisor. Residents cannot receive their results without collecting a saliva sample in the presence of a health care professional. 

Residents should not eat, drink, smoke or chew anything for 30 minutes before completing the test. No DNA is collected during the test.

The saliva sample must be shipped back to the lab with a prepaid UPS box and label. The shipment will need to be dropped off at a UPS store location or direct drop box. It cannot be sent back via FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service.

Test results will likely be available within 24-48 hours after the sample is received.

Residents can complete an at-home COVID-19 saliva test more than once, but the first collection kit must be returned before receiving another.

In addition to New Jersey's partnership with Vault, a new federal COVID-19 testing site will soon be coming to the state. The clinic will be set up by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of an effort to expand free testing resources to underserved communities.

The state health department is working with the CDC to determine the location and opening date of the testing site.

"With the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, it is imperative that we remain vigilant and provide tools for our residents to stay safe," Gov. Phil Murphy said. "This testing site will be an invaluable means to continue mitigating the spread of the pandemic. I thank our federal partners for their continued support and commitment to keeping New Jerseyans healthy."

The testing site is part of President Joe Biden's plan to combat the spread of the omicron variant. The White House's strategy also calls for the distribution of 500 million free, at-home COVID-19 tests and setting up new federal vaccination clinics.

Philadelphia provided free, at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits to residents ahead of Christmas. The test kits were available at several vaccination clinics across the city.

New Jersey is currently experiencing a high level of COVID-19 transmission, according to the CDC. The state recorded 10,045 new COVID-19 infections Monday. Its seven-day case average stands at 12,237, the highest-ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began.


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