The always evolving COVID-19 news cycle can make it hard to keep track of what resources are available and how to seek them.
In the last few weeks, federal and local officials have made a frenzy of announcements of free rapid at-home tests and masks, as coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant have surged.
In December, President Joe Biden announced the federal government would buy and distribute free coronavirus rapid test kits. Then, at the start of January, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a similar effort to distribute millions of at-home coronavirus tests and masks. King County also announced a plan to distribute thousands of free coronavirus tests in December and January.
The news came as cases continued to break records and booster dose appointments and rapid tests at pharmacies were difficult to snag. While there are preliminary signs that cases may be starting to peak, officials are still eager to get rapid tests to those who need them.
Details about local distribution efforts are still not clear, with limited supply and officials planning to send some tests by mail and distribute others through local community centers and libraries.
Here is the latest about where to get free tests and masks in King County and Washington. This guide will be updated as more information becomes available.
Free coronavirus tests
Once you’ve ordered or picked up your free tests, be sure to familiarize yourself with the different types of at-home tests, when to take them and what to do if you test positive.
Federal government: COVIDTests.gov
White House officials said they plan to purchase 1 billion coronavirus tests to ship free to U.S. households. Orders are limited to one per household, with each order containing four rapid antigen tests. The tests will usually ship within 12 days, according to the White House.
For help placing an order, call 800-232-0233 (daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. PST). In some cases addresses may not be recognized as multifamily homes or units. If there’s an issue because you believe an order has already been placed using your address, contact USPS at 800-275-8777 or file a service request at emailus.usps.com/s/the-postal-store-inquiry.
Washington State Department of Health: sayyescovidhometest.org
DOH announced Washingtonians can order up to five tests per household. But with initial limited supply, the state’s inventory of 650,000 test quickly ran out on Jan. 21, the day the website launched. On Jan. 31, DOH announced more tests were available to 120,000 homes.
The state is expected to receive about 5.5 million more rapid tests during the most recent surge in omicron infections, according to Inslee. As of Thursday, DOH did not have an estimate for when more tests will be available to order online.
Kits should arrive about one to two weeks after ordering, according to the site. In some parts of the state, residents also have the option of picking up tests locally, but people are urged to call their local health department first to check.
King County: County officials have purchased 700,000 at-home tests to distribute through libraries, health centers, senior centers and community groups.
So far, two announced locations include:
- Open Arms Perinatal Services in Seattle’s North Beacon Hill neighborhood, 2524 16th Ave. S., #207A
- Living Well in Kent, 24604 104th Ave. S.E., #102
The county health department is also partnering with the King County Library System to give away free tests at eight branches. With limited supply, the public is advised to call ahead or check online to see if tests are available.
- Burien: 400 S.W. 152nd St., Burien, WA 98166, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
- Enumclaw: 1700 First St., Enumclaw, WA 98022, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
- Fairwood: 17009 140th Ave. S.E., Renton, WA 98058, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
- Federal Way: 34200 First Way S., Federal Way, WA 98003, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
- Renton Highlands: 2801 N.E. 10th St., Renton, WA 98056, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
- Skyway: 12601 76th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98178, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
- Southcenter: 1386 Southcenter Mall, Tukwila, WA 98188, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
- Woodmont: 26809 Pacific Highway S., Des Moines, WA 98198, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Community groups interested in distributing tests are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need to get tested ASAP?
If you’re in need of a test while waiting to receive your tests in the mail, or maybe you run out, turn to the various places that offer free tests across the state. To find testing locations, visit: doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations
In Seattle, new rapid PCR tests are available at three locations:
- Paramount Theatre: 911 Pine St., noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
- Washington State Convention Center: 705 Pike St., 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday
- Garfield Playfield-Tennis Court: 501-653 25th Ave., 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Major pharmacies offer testing, but require visitors to schedule appointments. And some stores selling at-home tests may limit the number you can purchase.
Free masks — including N95 masks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommendation on face coverings in January and clarified that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection.
Washington state is planning to distribute around 10 million masks including KN95 and surgical masks, mostly from existing supplies. State officials said at the start of January those masks will be sent to local emergency management officials and K-12 schools “in the coming weeks.”
The King County Library System is also offering free KN90 masks at the eight branches listed above.
The White House on Jan. 19 announced a plan to give away 400 million N95 masks from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile through pharmacies and community health centers that have partnered with the federal government’s vaccination campaign.
The effort is the largest distribution of free masks by the federal government to the public since the pandemic began.
In Washington, partners include Albertsons, Bartell Drugs, Costco, CVS, Fred Meyer, Rite Aid, Safeway, Walgreens and Walmart, among others. A full list of partners can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site, st.news/masking.
Local pharmacies and grocery stores should be receiving masks in the coming days, with some locations already offering masks.
Seattle Times staff reporter Elise Takahama contributed to this report.