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Published: May 18, 2022 5 min read
A row of multiple at home covid tests
Money; Shutterstock

You can now order eight more at-home COVID-19 tests to your doorstep, at no cost.

To combat the highly transmissible subvariants of omicron, the Biden administration announced Tuesday that all households — regardless of health insurance status — can request a third batch of free coronavirus tests on COVIDtests.gov.

The latest batch brings the total number of free tests through the government's at-home shipment program to 16. The previous two rounds of shipments included four tests each.

“COVID-19 testing is a critical tool to help mitigate the spread of the virus, which is why maintaining domestic testing capacity is an essential component of the President’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan,” the White House said in the announcement.

The federal at-home testing program, which launched in January, earmarked 500 million rapid antigen tests for free distribution via COVIDtests.gov. Of those 500 million, the White House said that approximately 350 million have already hit mailboxes as of Tuesday, indicating that roughly 150 million tests remain.

How to order free COVID tests from the government

Ordering free COVID-19 tests is relatively simple and can be completed in just a couple minutes. Once you place the order, the USPS will deliver the tests usually within seven to 12 days — but sometimes sooner.

How to order online:

  • Go to COVIDtests.gov. From the homepage, select the “order free at-home tests” button.
  • You will be forwarded to a special USPS website for ordering your tests. Here, you can input your basic information, including your first and last name and address.
  • While not required, you can also input your email address to receive tracking information.
  • Once all your information is correctly entered, select “check out now,” and a confirmation page will appear. If you entered your email address, you should receive a confirmation message from the USPS shortly afterward.

How to order over the phone:

  • Call the COVID-19 tests hotline toll-free at 1-800-232-0233.
  • Follow the prompts from the automated answering service, indicating that you’d like to place an order for at-home COVID-19 tests.
  • At this point, you may be able to speak with a live representative, but due to heavy call volume you may want to continue ordering through the automated answering service.
  • If you continue through the automated service, you’ll need to clearly say your first and last name and your residential address.
  • Listen carefully to the automated operator as it will repeat your information back to you. Confirm to place your order.

For folks who have difficulties communicating over the phone, the government runs a separate TTY hotline at 1-888-720-7489.

The USPS order form will default to sending you eight free tests. But according to the USPS hotline, if you have not ordered all 16 tests yet, you may be able to place up to three separate orders on the USPS website (first order of four, second order of four and third order of eight).

When the program first rolled out, it limited orders to one shipment per residential address. However, an FAQ now clarifies that multiple, unrelated families living at the same address are eligible for up to 16 tests each. If another family at your address already placed an order, the USPS’s form might deny your order. If this happens, you can call USPS at 1-800-ASK-USPS or file a service request.

Should you run through all 16 tests, a separate initiative from the federal government requires health insurance companies to cover the cost of up to eight at-home COVID-19 tests per person covered by the plan.

Additionally, the Feds say free in-person testing is still available at more than 20,000 sites, like pharmacies and other community-based locations, nationwide.

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