Jan. 18, 2022 -- Americans can now have free COVID-19 rapid tests delivered directly to their homes.
The Biden administration’s new no-cost, at-home testing program launched today, a day ahead of schedule.
The administration said 500 million tests are available to be delivered to homes across the country. This accounts for half of the president’s recent pledge to purchase 1 billion free at-home COVID-19 tests to distribute to the American public.
On a Jan. 14 call with reporters, senior White House officials offered some details about the new program.
Here’s what we know so far.
How do I order my free tests?
Americans can visit COVIDtests.gov to order their rapid at-home tests. You can also order directly from the U.S. Postal Service website. After you order, you’ll receive a confirmation email that promises to send tracking information once your order ships.
What information do I need to order the tests?
You only need your name and home mailing address.
There is also an option to provide your email address to get updates on the status of your order.
What if someone needs help ordering the tests?
There will be a free call-in line for people needing more help, including those having trouble accessing the internet, according to White House officials.
What tests will be available?
There are nine at-home tests available through FDA emergency use authorization. According to the Frequently Asked Questions section of COVIDtests.gov, “You will not be able to choose the brand you order as part of this program.”
How long will it take to get the tests once I order them?
Tests are expected to ship 7 to 12 days after you order them.
But White House officials say that the time frame will likely shorten as the program gains steam.
How many can I order?
There’s a limit of four tests per residential mailing address.
For larger families, White House officials suggest trying other free testing options, like visiting COVID-19 testing sites or your local health center.
Is this a one-time opportunity?
The White House doesn’t say, but officials did mention that if you run out of your four free tests, there are many other ways to access free at-home tests, such as COVID-19 testing sites, pharmacies, and community health centers.
The free tests available through COVIDtests.gov are in addition to an estimated 375 million at-home rapid tests on the market in the U.S. this month.
When should people use a rapid at-home test?
The CDC and experts with other public health groups agree that Americans should consider using at-home rapid tests in the following situations:
- If they begin to have symptoms consistent with COVID-19
- At least 5 days after close contact with someone who has COVID
- If someone is indoors with a group of people who are at risk of severe disease or are unvaccinated
Are at-home rapid tests accurate?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal officials confirmed through studies that all tests distributed through this program can detect the Omicron variant. These agencies also confirmed that their performance is consistent with the FDA’s emergency use authorization.
Is the website designed to handle high demand?
After the original website to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act crashed repeatedly at launch, the government says it has prepared for high demand for ordering at-home rapid tests.
The U.S. Digital Service (USDS), an organization founded after Healthcare.gov, has partnered with the Postal Service to plan for the launch.
The Postal Service has expanded its staffing, similar to what’s done during the holidays.
All orders in the continental United States will be shipped through first-class mail, with shipments to Alaska, Hawaii, U.S. territories, and military and overseas addresses sent through priority mail.