For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.
An increase in COVID-19 cases is happening again in the US due to the BA.5 subvariant of omicron, with nearly 82% of current cases coming from BA.5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, more than 1 in 2 Americans now live in areas where the CDC is now urging people to wear masks to reduce the spread of the virus.
Testing for coronavirus remains crucial, so if you haven’t received all your free COVID-19 tests from the US government, now is a great time to stock up. On Jan. 19, the government launched covidtests.gov, a website that lets households order four free rapid antigen COVID-19 tests, shipped by the US Postal Service. The site allowed citizens to order another four free tests in March, and then added eight more free tests per household in May.
You can order the tests at any time — there’s no deadline — so if you haven’t received any, you can still get the first and second rounds. Along with the eight new tests from May, that’s a total of 16 total tests. It only takes 2 minutes to order your tests and, in my experience, USPS ships them out pretty quickly. See below to find out how to get more test kits, when they’ll arrive and what to do if you have problems.
How to get free COVID-19 tests
You only need to provide the US Postal Service with a few bits of information to get your free test kits. You won’t be asked to provide any credit or debit card details, as both the tests and the shipping are free. Here’s how to get your free test kits.
1. Visit special.USPS.com/testkits. You can also get there via covidtests.gov.
2. Enter your contact details and shipping information.
3. Click Check Out Now.
4. Verify that your information is correct and select Place My Order.
All orders will be shipped via First Class Package Service.
People who can’t access the website or who have trouble ordering online can call 800-232-0233 to order their free tests.
How can I track my order?
Once you place your order, you should receive a confirmation email. When your package ships, you’ll receive email notifications providing you with shipping updates, including a tracking number and estimated delivery date. Note that for the third round, you’ll receive two packages that’ll likely arrive on different days, so look for two confirmation emails with your tracking numbers.
Once you receive it, you can either click the tracking link or copy and paste the tracking number into the Postal Service’s website’s tracker.
How many test kits can I get?
According to the USPS, each residential household is eligible for three rounds of free at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 tests, for a total of 16 kits.
Only one person per address will be able to place an order for the free tests, even if you have multiple people living in your home.
Can I choose which brand test I get?
No, there isn’t an option to choose which brand of test you will receive. All tests are rapid antigen tests authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, like iHealth.
When will the test kits arrive?
Tests are typically sent out within seven to 12 days of an order being successfully placed and are delivered by the USPS within one to three days of shipping.
What if I haven’t received my first or second batch of test kits?
The USPS says its site has had some difficulties recognizing certain residential addresses, especially apartment buildings, multifamily homes and residences connected to commercial properties.
If you have had issues placing an order, you can file a service request online or call the USPS Help Desk at 800-ASK-USPS.
Is it OK to use a test kit that was left outside?
According to the FDA, manufacturers have ensured that the tests remain stable at various temperatures, “including shipping during the summer in very hot regions and in the winter in very cold regions.”
But a test may be damaged by being left outdoors in freezing temperatures or being used immediately after being brought inside from freezing temperatures.
The ideal temperature to store rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits at is between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
To ensure appropriate performance with a test delivered in freezing temperatures, bring the package inside and leave it unopened at room temperature for at least 2 hours before opening.
“As long as the test line[s] appear as described in the instructions, you can be confident that the test is performing as it should,” the FDA site says.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.