The Biden administration on Tuesday launched without fanfare its website for Americans to request four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household, one day before it was scheduled to go live.
On Tuesday, COVIDTests.gov appeared to be running smoothly. Clicking the button to order tests sends you to the United States Postal Service site, where you can fill in your name and address to request four tests.
The tests are rapid antigen at-home tests, not PCR tests, that can be taken anywhere and give results in 30 minutes, according to the site. They do not have to be taken to a lab, and they can be used whether you have symptoms or not and regardless of whether you’ve had a vaccine.
The site is scheduled to officially launch midday on Wednesday and marks President Joe Biden’s latest step to address problems people have had getting COVID-19 tests during a nationwide surge in cases from the omicron variant.
Here’s what you need to know about the new site.
Who can order the tests?
Anyone with a residential address in the U.S. can order four tests to be delivered to their household.
How can I order tests and when?
To place an order, all you need is your name and residential address. No ID, credit card or health insurance information is required, the website says.
People can choose to share an email address, too, to get updates on their order.
Is there a limit to how many tests I can order?
The initial program allows four only free individual tests per residential address, no matter how many people live in the household, the site says.
Can I choose what type or brand of test I get?
All tests distributed as part of this program are FDA-authorized, at-home rapid antigen tests. You will not be able to choose the brand.
When will I get my tests and how will they be delivered?
These tests will be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Tests will typically ship within 7 to 12 days of ordering, the site says.
Will I be able to track my order status?
If you choose to provide an email address, you will receive notifications with shipping updates.
People can also track the status of deliveries on USPS.com.
Can I pick up my tests somewhere?
No. The program is designed to send free tests to residences, the website says.
How do I use the tests?
Tests will have instructions on how to use them.
When should I use my tests?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you take an at-home test:
- If you begin having COVID-19 symptoms like fever, sore throat, runny nose, or loss of taste or smell, or
- At least 5 days after you come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, or
- When you’re going to gather with a group of people, especially those who are at risk of severe disease or may not be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
The latest CDC self-testing guidance is available here.
The effort to deliver at-home tests to homes was launched after Biden announced last month that the U.S. would purchase 500 million at-home tests. Last week, he said he was doubling the order to 1 billion tests.
Since Saturday, private insurance companies have been required to cover the cost of at-home rapid tests, allowing Americans to be reimbursed for tests they purchase at pharmacies and online retailers. That covers up to eight tests per month.
Officials emphasized that the federal website is just one way to get COVID-19 tests. The latest information from the Department of Health on testing sites and at-home testing in Washington is available here.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.