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Originally Published: Jan 18, 2022
Originally Published: Jan 18, 2022 Last Updated: Jan 20, 2022 6 min read
Hands Holding A Covid-19 Home Test Kit
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The government website where you can order four free at-home COVID-19 tests and get them shipped to your doorstep is now live and available to use.

Starting today, Jan. 18, you can visit a new website run by the federal government, COVIDtests.gov, and order reserve free at-home COVID-19 rapid tests. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will deliver them to your home, also for free. The website was scheduled to officially launch on Jan. 19, but it is up and running and accepting orders one day early.

The program is part of President Biden’s efforts to procure and distribute 1 billion at-home coronavirus tests to the American public at no cost. So far, the White House has obtained contracts for 420 million tests and “tens of millions” are ready to ship immediately, senior officials said in a background phone call to reporters Jan. 14, ahead of the website’s official launch.

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How to order free at-home coronavirus tests from the government

Here’s how to get your free at-home COVID-19 tests:

  • Visit COVIDtests.gov, the official federal government website for the program.
  • Press the "order free at-home tests" button, which will forward you to a separate site run by the USPS to place your order.
  • Input your name and residential address that will be used for shipping.
  • Follow the prompts to place your order, which includes four tests per address.
  • OPTIONAL: Put in your email address to track the shipment of the tests.

Folks who have difficulty accessing the internet or the website can order the tests by calling 1-800-232-0233, a toll-free number shared by Vaccines.gov.

"At-home COVID-19 tests will ship free starting in late January. USPS will only send one set of 4 free tests to valid residential addresses," states an order confirmation message from the USPS. "We are unable to process duplicate orders for the same address."

Once your order is confirmed, the White House says the USPS will ship your tests in seven to 12 days via first class mail. Senior officials said they expect the shipment time to reduce as the program ramps up.

“Every website launch comes with risks,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference Tuesday. “We can’t guarantee there won’t be a bug or two, but the best tech teams across the administration and the Postal Service are working hard to make this a success.”

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FAQs about free at-home COVID-19 tests

What kind of free COVID-19 tests are available delivery?

The White House says the tests are at-home rapid tests that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. The exact brands aren’t clear, but the administration says the tests will only be rapid antigen tests, which are also called over-the-counter (OTC) or self tests or at-home tests. PCR tests, which require samples to be shipped to labs for results, aren’t a part of the program.

How long will it take for the tests to deliver?

Orders will ship between seven and 12 days, according to White House estimates.

Exact delivery time frames may vary. The USPS’s website says first class mail typically delivers within five business days. And that may be in addition to the shipment processing time.

How many at-home tests can I get for free?

The current order limit is four per residential address. That number is regardless of how many people live in your home. The order limit is currently on the first 500 billion tests. The Biden administration is in the process of procuring another 500 billion, and officials have indicated the four-per-household limit may be revisited as more tests are available.

Do I need health insurance?

No. The tests available through COVIDtests.gov are available to anyone with a residential shipping address in the U.S. and its territories. No proof of residency or insurance is required to place an order.

I was able to order my tests before Jan. 19. Was this a glitch?

Psaki on Tuesday acknowledged the website was live and accepting orders before the official launch of COVIDtests.gov and special.usps.com/testkits as part of a beta test. Orders placed during the beta testing period will be honored.

How else can I get free at-home COVID-19 tests?

In addition to the four free tests available through COVIDtests.gov, the White House announced a free at-home testing program for people with private health insurance.

As of Jan. 15, private insurers are required to cover the cost of at-home tests, either by covering the costs upfront at pharmacies and retailers — similar to how prescription programs already work — or by reimbursing you the cost for tests that you paid for out-of-pocket.

Additionally, several states have been distributing their stockpiles of at-home tests through local libraries and community centers. In-person testing is also available for free at more than 20,000 testing centers or pop-up FEMA sites, according to the White House.

UPDATE: This story was updated on Thursday, Jan. 20, with more details on ordering tests over the phone.

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