January 18, 2022
Finding at-home COVID-19 tests has been a nearly impossible task since the omicron surge at the holidays. Now, households can get four free tests from the federal government.
The government website where the test kits can be ordered – covidtests.gov – began operating Tuesday as part of a "beta phase," according to the White House. A full rollout will occur Wednesday.
The Biden Administration has promised to distribute 1 billion free test kits nationwide to address the challenges Americans have experienced in accessing COVID-19 testing.
Here is everything you need to know to get your test kits.
The free COVID-19 test are available at covidtests.gov. People must provide their names and shipping addresses to receive them. No credit card information is necessary because there will not be any shipping fees tacked onto orders, the website says.
Initially, each U.S. residential address will be limited to four rapid tests – even if more people live at the address.
Most tests will be delivered via the U.S. Postal Service and take at least 7-12 days to arrive from the time the order is placed. Shipments to Alaska, Hawaii, Army Post Offices, Fleet Post Offices and Diplomatic Post Offices will be sent through Priority Mail and will arrive in 1-3 days.
Because it could take more than a week for the tests to arrive, federal officials advise people to order the tests now. Don't wait until becoming sick or being exposed to the coronavirus to order them.
Yes. People may request email notification of shipping updates. Each order also comes with a tracking number that can be used to check the status of the delivery at USPS.com.
People can not specify the brand that they will receive. Each brand being distributed is authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is capable of detecting the omicron variant, currently the dominant form of COVID-19 in the U.S.
All tests will come with detailed instructions. ECRI, a patient safety group based in Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County, recently ranked at-home COVID-19 test based on how easy they are to use.
Anyone who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should test five days after exposure or as soon as symptoms develop, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If people develop symptoms, they should quarantine until a negative test confirms that they do not have COVID-19.
People who test positive using an at-home test are advised to follow the CDC's isolation guidance and communicate the results to their health care providers. They will report the results to the state health department.
People who test negative are advised to test again with at least 24 hours in between tests.
Private insurers are now required to cover the cost of up to eight at-home, rapid tests a month for each insured person. People can buy the tests and then request reimbursement from their health insurance provider. Be sure to save those receipts.
The new federal rule is not retroactive, officials said. Only tests purchased since Saturday, Jan. 15 will be covered.
People who have Medicare or lack insurance will need to go through covidtests.gov or find community health centers offering free testing.
Some pharmacy locations and Federal Emergency Management Agency-backed sites offer free testing. Philadelphia residents can use the city's COVID testing finder to identify nearby sites.
FEMA also has opened a testing site at the William Cibotti Recreation Center in Southwest Philadelphia. People who get tested there will receive a PCR test, which are more accurate but the results are not rapid.