As the holiday season approaches and flu and RSV season kick into full swing, it’s more crucial than ever to take precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. The government is once again offering free at-home COVID tests to Americans, providing an easy and convenient way to ensure your safety before attending large gatherings or visiting at-risk individuals.
To address the increasing demand for accessible testing, every U.S. household is eligible to order four free at-home tests starting from Monday, Nov. 20. Even if you missed the previous round of free tests in September, you can now place two orders and receive up to eight tests. You can simply visit COVIDtests.gov, fill out the online form with your full name and mailing address, and the tests will be shipped to you free of charge, including to P.O. boxes.
It’s worth noting that the tests may show expired dates on the box, but the Food and Drug Administration has extended the expiration dates for home coronavirus tests. Therefore, the tests are still reliable and effective, according to the FDA.
For individuals who face challenges with online ordering or require assistance, there is a helpline available. You can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) or reach out to the Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) at 1-888-677-1199 or D[email protected] for support in placing your orders.
Once you’ve submitted your order, the tests will be shipped via USPS Ground Advantage, with an expected delivery time of two to five days. It’s important to remember that these at-home tests are rapid antigen tests and not PCR tests, which are considered the gold standard for accuracy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antigen tests yield quick results, but PCR tests are better at detecting the virus, especially in asymptomatic individuals.
To maximize the accuracy of your results, especially if you have symptoms, the CDC recommends taking two negative antigen tests performed 48 hours apart or a single PCR test. Free or low-cost testing programs are also available at community-based testing sites for those who need quicker results.
As we navigate the holiday season, it’s vital to remain vigilant and follow safety guidelines. The CDC suggests testing as close to the time of an event or gathering as possible, practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and maintaining good hygiene practices. Additionally, staying up to date with COVID vaccines, including boosters, and getting flu and RSV shots further enhance your protection.
Remember, if you have symptoms, test immediately. If you are only taking a single test, a PCR test provides more reliable results. If using an antigen test, positive results are reliable, but negative results may not always be accurate. If your antigen test is negative, consider taking another antigen test after 48 hours or a PCR test for greater certainty. And if you have been exposed to COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms, wait at least five days after exposure before taking a test.
By taking advantage of the free at-home COVID tests and following these guidelines, you can help prevent the spread of the virus during this holiday season and keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
1. How can I order free at-home COVID tests?
To order free at-home COVID tests, you can visit COVIDtests.gov and fill out the online form with your name and mailing address. The tests will be shipped to your provided location via USPS, free of charge.
2. Can I order more than four tests?
Yes, if you did not receive the previous round of free tests in September, you can place two orders and receive up to eight at-home COVID tests.
3. How long does it take for the tests to be delivered?
After placing your order, the tests will be shipped via USPS Ground Advantage with an expected delivery time of two to five days.
4. Are the at-home tests reliable?
At-home COVID tests are rapid antigen tests, which provide quick results. However, PCR tests are generally more accurate, especially in detecting the virus in asymptomatic individuals.
5. What other testing options are available?
If you need faster results or prefer alternative testing options, you can look for free or low-cost testing programs available at community-based testing sites.
6. What precautions should I take during the holiday season?
The CDC recommends testing as close to the time of an event or gathering as possible, practicing social distancing, wearing masks, maintaining good hygiene practices, and staying up to date on COVID vaccines, including boosters.
(Source: CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration)