A flurry of news came out of the State of the Union address last week, including an announcement that free, at-home COVID-19 test kits are being made available by the federal government once again.
The White House confirmed yesterday that the additional rapid tests President Biden touted during his SOTU speech can now be ordered via COVIDtests.gov. The second batch of tests are part of the Biden administration's continued push to ensure that testing is taking place across the nation.
"If you've already ordered free tests, you can now order another round shipped directly to your home and for free, so we're prepared no matter what COVID-19 brings" Biden said in a video released by the White House.
The free test kit program, which is operating in partnership with the United States Postal Service, began in January amid the Omicron outbreak when tests were scarce. At that point Biden, who described testing as an important tool to mitigate further spread of the coronavirus, had promised to make 1 billion kits available.
How many free test kits can each household order this time around?
The White House program limits each household to a total two orders of four test kits each—or a total of eight test kits. This means if you ordered four kits in January when the program was initially offered, you can now order four more.
The first time the federal government offered free COVID-19 test kits, more than half of U.S. households ordered them. Since the start of the program, the USPS has delivered 270 million tests to households, according to a recently issued postal service press release.
Similar to the last time the government offered free test kits, you'll need to enter a U.S. home address on the COVIDtests.gov website in order to receive the shipment. Those who need help placing an order without access to a computer or the internet can call 1-800-232-0233 for assistance.
How long will it take to receive the tests?
The federal government has said the test kits should ship within seven to 12 days after being ordered. This timeline wasn't always met during the first round of availability because of test kit scarcity. However, with the omicron variant no longer an issue, supply shortages should no longer be a challenge.
"As we open up this second round, we are going to be shipping immediately," White House testing coordinator Tom Inglesby told NPR. "We have a fairly substantial stock of new tests ready to be shipped, so we expect orders to be delivered quickly."
The USPS meanwhile, says on average, it is taking about 1.2 days to deliver test kits once the packages have been received from the manufacturer and entered into the mail stream.
Why do you need more tests?
Even with mask mandates being dropped in communities around the country and life inching much closer to normal, we're far from out of the woods with regard to the pandemic. While COVID-19 case numbers have dropped significantly, experts say we're still very much in the pandemic phase of the outbreak and have not yet reached the next 'deceleration' phase, during which the world would see a sharp decline in cases.
Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended using the at-home tests if you begin to have symptoms, or at least five days after coming in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or after having gathered indoors with a group of people who are at risk of severe disease or unvaccinated.
Where else can you get test kits?
In addition to the free government program, there are many other options for obtaining COVID-19 at-home test kits. The federal government's COVIDtest website says at-home tests are also available for sale at local retailers and pharmacies around the country.
If you have insurance through an employer or marketplace, your insurance will pay you back for eight at-home tests each month for each person on your plan, per Biden Adminstration requirements.
"Most people with a health plan can go online, or to a pharmacy or store to purchase an at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at no cost, either through reimbursement or free of charge through their insurance," according to the government website. "This applies whether you purchased your health plan on your own or whether you get health insurance through your job."
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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