Here's Exactly How to Get 4 Free COVID Tests Sent to Your Home
The federal government has just restarted a popular pandemic program once again.
We've come a long way since 2020, but that doesn't mean COVID is gone completely. In fact, officials are worried about how things may go this fall and winter—as the virus has consistently surged during the colder months in the last few years. As case numbers have already started ticking back up, the federal government is reviving one of its most popular pandemic programs to help mitigate any spread. Read on to discover exactly how you can now get four free COVID tests sent to your home again.
Officials suspended the free COVID test program earlier this year.
Amid the deadly Omicron variant surge, the Biden administration launched a program to provide free at-home COVID tests for people around the U.S. in Jan. 2022. The government initially allowed people to order four kits per household before expanding the program in March and May. Then, in Sept. 2022, the program was suspended for the first time, Axios reported.
It was quickly revived in Dec. 2022 before being suspended once again this past summer. The White House previously announced that people in the U.S. would be able to order free at-home COVID tests until the end of May, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID was set to expire.
But the program has just been revived.
But now, the Biden Administration is once again restarting its free at-home COVID test program. In a Sept. 20 press release, the HHS announced that the federal government is investing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID tests to deliver free kits to households across the U.S. This news comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a 12.5 percent rise in positive COVID tests for the week of Sept. 10.
"Whether or not people are done with it, we know the virus is there, we know that it's circulating. We know, if past is prologue, it'll circulate to a higher degree and spread, and cases will go up in the fall and winter seasons," Dawn O'Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, told the AP. "Anticipating that that would be true again, or something similar, we want to make sure the American people have these tools."
You can now order new COVID tests to be sent to your home.
As of Sept. 25, the federal government is allowing people to submit requests for new free tests through its COVIDTests.gov website. "Every U.S. Household can again place an order to receive four more free COVID-19 rapid tests delivered directly to their home," a banner on the website states. You can also call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) if you need help placing an order for your at-home tests.
"These tests will detect the currently circulating COVID-19 variants," the HHS said in its release. They will be delivered at no cost by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) like they have been in the past, according to the AP. O'Connell also told the news outlet that the COVIDTests.gov website will remain open to receive orders throughout at least the holidays and added that they "reserve the right to keep it open even longer if we're starting to see an increase in cases."
"If there is a demand for these tests, we want to make sure that they're made available to the American people for free in this way," O'Connell said. "But, at this point, our focus is getting through the holidays and making sure folks can take a test if they're going to see Grandma for Thanksgiving."
But don't throw away any old tests before double-checking their expiration dates.
Since the very beginning of the free at-home COVID test program, the federal government has already delivered over 755 million free tests to households across the U.S. The HHS said that the tests being sent out in its new release are "intended for use through the end of 2023, and will include clear instructions on how to verify extended expiration dates."
But if you still have unused tests from previous rounds, you may still be able to use them—even if the box indicates that it is expired. In the new banner on COVIDTests.gov, officials are advising people to check the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) website before they "throw out 'expired' tests." That's because many COVID test kits have actually had their shelf lives extended, according to the FDA.
"Once the test manufacturer has more stability testing results, such as 12 or 18 months, the test manufacturer can contact the FDA to request that the FDA authorize a longer shelf-life," the agency explains. "When a longer shelf-life is authorized, the expiration dates will be extended and the test manufacturer may send a notice to customers to provide the new authorized expiration dates, so the customers know how long they can use the tests they already have. If you did not purchase your at-home COVID-19 diagnostic test directly from the test manufacturer, you may not receive such a notice."