It has been nearly two years since we first realized the full impact of the pandemic. Despite a brief period last summer when it seemed like everything was returning to normal, the Omicron variant started, making cases rise. So, we’re finally getting free at-home tests. Every home in the United States can now obtain four free tests. The process is straightforward, but of course, it is not without flaws. Here’s how to secure one for yourself, as well as how to troubleshoot some of the issues people have been facing.
Order tests by email
First, head to CovidTests.gov. In a blue bubble on the homepage, you should see “Order Free At-Home Tests.” When you click on it, you’ll be taken to the USPS website, where you fill out your name and address. Include your email address, so that you can receive shipping updates.
Everything is free, even the delivery. However, the caveat here is that a request can only be made by one individual per household.
Order tests by phone
You can call the helpline at 1-800-232-0233 if you’d rather place an order over the phone, or if you know someone who doesn’t have internet access, such as an elderly relative. Be aware that you will most likely be placed on hold for some time.
Delivery estimates and hiccups
Because it will take 7-12 days for the tests to arrive, we recommend ordering them quickly, so you’ll have them on hand when you need one. There’s no assurance as to which brand you’ll get, and you won’t be able to pick one, but the site claims that they are all FDA-approved, at-home, quick antigen testing.
According to the CDC, you should get a test as soon as you start to experience symptoms, or within five days of exposure. If your initial test is negative and you’re asymptomatic, repeat the test according to the manufacturer’s directions. This should happen 2-3 days after the first test—most test kits include two tests for this reason. If your test results are positive, get a second one and quarantine for 5 days.
Despite the fact that the government had two years to devise this strategy, it is not without flaws. Hopefully, you will be able to complete your request in a matter of minutes, but some users have encountered some hiccups in the process.
Apartment residents may discover that their multi-unit structure has been classed as a single dwelling. If anyone in the entire building orders tests, the system assumes they’re ordering more than the four per family allowed.
The USPS is addressing this problem by requesting that anybody who has encountered it submit a service request. A similar problem affects residents of live-work buildings, which are popular in California’s Bay Area. Because the system considers these addresses to be companies, no tests will be sent to them. You’ll also need to file a service request.
If you live in a house with more than four people, you may also have some issues. Currently, each family can only request four tests, regardless of the number of people living there. It’s unclear whether we’ll be able to request more in the future. If you’ve completed all four tests or just have a larger family, you won’t be eligible for a free at-home kit. If you require more, you can purchase them yourself. Test kits are already starting to arrive at people’s homes.
The pandemic is still ongoing to everyone’s contempt. Did you know that there’s a plant-based vaccine in the works?
Photo via Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media