UPDATE (09/06/2022): Ordering through the free at-home COVID-19 test program was suspended as of Friday, Sept. 2, according to USPS. The Biden administration says Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to continue to fund the distribution of tests.
For more information on other free COVID-19 testing options, please visit COVID.gov/tests
PREVIOUS REPORTING: As the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly across the United States, the White House is implementing its plans to help Americans battle the highly transmissible variant by improving access to free testing, weeks after facing backlash after White House press secretary Jen Psaki laughed at the idea of mailing tests to Americans.
In a Dec. 21 speech, President Joe Biden said the federal government planned to purchase 500 million at-home rapid COVID-19 tests that would be delivered free of charge to every American who requests them. Since then, the Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded contracts to several manufacturers to increase test production.
Then, in a Jan. 13 Twitter post, Biden announced that his team would purchase an additional 500 million tests, bringing the total count to 1 billion upon completion of the second order. Now many people online are wondering how to request the free tests.
Can you order free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government?
Yes, you can now order free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government. The website went live on Jan. 18, a day earlier than the government originally announced.
WHAT WE FOUND
When are tests available?
On Jan. 14, the White House announced the launch of COVIDtests.gov, the test-ordering website. An online statement said the site would go live on Jan. 19.
However, the website was accepting requests for tests on Jan. 18, a day before its formal launch date. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a Jan. 18 press briefing this was because the site was in a “beta testing phase.”
“COVIDtests.gov is in the beta phase right now, which is a standard part of the process typically as it’s tested in the early stages of being rolled out,” Psaki said.
The testing site was fully functional on Jan. 18 and orders for tests were being processed.
How can I order tests?
To order the free tests, all you need to do is enter your name and a residential mailing address. The tests are expected to ship within seven to 12 days and will be delivered by the USPS with no additional shipping costs, according to the website.
Once your order has shipped, you will receive an email with an estimated delivery date and a tracking number. You will then be able to track the status of your delivery on USPS.com, according to the agency.
What brand of tests will I receive?
According to COVIDtests.gov, all of the free tests distributed as part of this program are FDA-authorized at-home rapid antigen tests. You will not be able to choose the brand you order as part of this program.
What if I can’t access the websites?
For individuals unable to access COVIDtests.gov or those who need additional support placing an order, you can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).
How else can I get tests?
Along with the launch of COVIDtests.gov, the Biden administration has made other free testing options available to Americans. As of Jan. 15, private insurance companies are required to cover the costs of eight at-home COVID-19 tests for insured individuals based on a new policy.
The government has also opened 18 federal free testing sites in areas that were in need of additional testing capacity, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Washington D.C. and 20 additional sites are set to open soon. There are also now over 20,000 free testing sites open across the country, according to the White House.
The Biden administration has also arranged for it to be easier for Americans to find free testing sites near them on Google. Biden says it’s as easy as entering “COVID test near me” in the Google search bar. Then, you’ll be able to find a number of different locations nearby where you can get tested.
For more information on how to order free at-home rapid tests from the government, visit COVIDtests.gov/FAQ