Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant is driving case numbers past last summer’s delta surge. But luckily, this year there are plenty of ways to stock up on free at-home tests.

If you’ve run out, COVID-19 rapid tests are still available through the federal government and Washington state’s free tests programs. In January, the state Department of Health quickly ran out of tests after launching its website. Now, both agencies have plenty of tests still available.

Expiration dates for rapid tests have been extended a few times so old tests may still be good to use.

The shelf lives for the popular iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test and BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test have been extended 12 months and 15 months, respectively, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

For a comprehensive list of tests and information on expiration dates, visit st.news/COVIDexpiration.

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Ordering free at-home tests from the federal government

The federal government launched its site, covidtests.gov, in January. Originally, each household was able to request one order of four tests. In May, White House officials expanded orders to three per household, with each order containing four rapid antigen tests. The tests 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. Pacific time). 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.

Ordering free at-home tests from Washington state

State officials also launched a site, sayyescovidhometest.org, in January to order free tests. New orders may be placed each month.

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.

As of Monday, DOH was not expecting any changes to the state’s test kit program for the “foreseeable future, including testing availability.” The state currently has about 3.8 million tests available, said DOH spokesperson Rachael Sims.

Private health insurers will cover tests

In January, the Biden administration announced private health insurers are required to cover up to eight home tests per month for people on their plans. For an example, a family of three could be reimbursed for 24 tests a month. If you are purchasing tests out of pocket, save your receipts and check with your insurance company on how to file a claim.

How to understand your tests

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the different types of at-home tests so you can decide what type of test might be best for you, when to take it and what to do if you test positive. The tests people receive from Washington state or the federal government may also carry an expiration date that is no longer accurate. For more information about administering at-home COVID tests, visit st.news/athometests.

Seattle Times staff reporter Elise Takahama contributed reporting.

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