US households can now order an additional four at-home COVID-19 tests for free through the government’s website, Covidtests.gov. Starting Monday, residents can place an order for four individual rapid antigen tests, with shipments beginning on November 27. For those without internet access, tests can be requested by phone. This initiative comes after the government temporarily halted the distribution program earlier this year and then reopened it in September.
The at-home COVID-19 tests are designed to be taken regardless of symptoms and can be used until the end of the year, even if the expiration dates indicate otherwise. The US Food and Drug Administration has extended the expiration dates for many of these tests. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing for individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as a sore throat, runny nose, loss of taste or smell, or a fever. Testing is also advised before attending large events or gatherings, particularly for those who are not fully vaccinated.
It’s worth noting that antiviral medications, such as Paxlovid, are now available to treat COVID-19 and can be more effective when started early. Testing at home can help individuals confirm if their symptoms are indeed due to COVID-19 and seek appropriate treatment promptly.
With rising COVID-19 hospital admissions and emergency department visits, widespread testing remains crucial in curbing the spread of the virus. The CDC reports that for the week ending November 11, the percentage of COVID-related emergency department visits was 1.4%, a rate similar to previous weeks. Flu-like illness outpatient visits are also higher compared to previous seasons, indicating the potential for a challenging respiratory virus season ahead.
As new variants of the virus continue to emerge, monitoring the performance of authorized tests remains essential. At present, widely available tests have not shown decreased effectiveness against the variants that have emerged in recent years. However, ongoing evaluation and surveillance are necessary to ensure testing accuracy and reliability.
1. How can I order the free at-home COVID-19 test kits?
You can place an order for four individual rapid antigen tests through Covidtests.gov or by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) if you don’t have internet access.
2. What if the tests show an expiration date?
The US Food and Drug Administration has extended the expiration dates for many of these tests. They should still be effective beyond their originally indicated expiration dates.
3. When should I consider taking a COVID-19 test?
It is recommended to take a test if you have COVID-19-like symptoms, are planning to attend a large event or gathering, or suspect exposure to the virus. Testing can help confirm the presence of COVID-19 and inform appropriate actions.
4. Are there treatments available for COVID-19?
Yes, there are antiviral medications such as Paxlovid that can be effective in treating COVID-19. Starting treatment as soon as possible after confirmation of infection is crucial for optimal results. Testing at home can help confirm if symptoms are due to COVID-19, enabling timely treatment.
5. How important is testing in preventing the spread of COVID-19?
Testing remains a critical tool in identifying and isolating individuals who are positive for COVID-19, helping to prevent the further spread of the virus. Regular testing can contribute to reducing transmission and preventing surges in cases.