The how-to guide for ordering your free at-home COVID-19 test kits
The SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to mutate, resulting in new variations of the COVID-19 virus. With upwards of 300,000 new cases and over 4,000 hospitalizations still occurring every week, the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the winter months, White House officials in the Biden administration announced a new program that allows households to order free COVID-19 test kits. These tests can be picked up over-the-counter at most pharmacies or ordered through the USPS for at-home delivery.
Read on for more information about how to take advantage of the free at-home test program.
How to order your free tests
The federal government recently announced that households can order up to four free at-home COVID test kits through the USPS. These at-home tests have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They can be ordered online at COVIDTests.gov, a site run by the USPS.
- To get your tests, visit: https://special.usps.com/testkits
- Enter your contact and shipping information
- Click “Check Out Now”
- Verify your information and click “Place My Order”
It is important to note that the test kits available via the USPS are rapid antigen tests. They are not PCR tests. These rapid tests produce results faster than PCR tests but are slightly less accurate. If it has been recommended that you take a PCR test, you should search for testing sites near you. For more information about the difference between antigen tests and PCR tests, as well as how to get a PCR lab test, check out the CDC’s site here.
How to track your order
Once you’ve gone through the ordering process detailed above, you should be sent a confirmation email. You will receive a notification email when your package ships, as well as a tracking number and estimated delivery date. You can use the tracking number to follow the processing of your order.
What to do after your order ships
The FDA ensures that COVID-19 tests remain stable even in inclement weather, however, it is recommended that you bring your shipped tests into your home as soon as possible. Extended exposure to heat or cold weather can damage your tests. Avoid exposing the tests to excess moisture and store them at room temperature (59-86 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you find that you need or want more than four rapid tests, you can get additional tests via your local pharmacy. You can also purchase tests through online retailers like iHealth. Talk to your insurance provider to determine whether or not tests purchased online are covered by your healthcare plan.
Most private health insurance plans, as well as Medicare, cover eight at-home COVID self-tests per month. These can be ordered at major pharmacies like Walgreens for pickup. You can also purchase these tests directly over-the-counter (OTC) in the pharmacy.
Find out if your insurance plan offers direct coverage for at-home tests, or if you have to submit a claim for reimbursement. If direct coverage is offered, you will not have to pay for your test upfront. If it isn’t offered, keep the receipt for your test purchase and submit a claim to your health insurance company to receive reimbursement.
If you are uninsured, or cannot pay for your test upfront, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA) has an easy-to-use health center locator that shows free testing sites across the country. Check it out here.
So, you’ve gotten your free at-home tests. You’re not feeling well. Now what?
The CDC recommends doing an at-home COVID test any time you’re feeling sick or unwell, or within 5 days after you’ve had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The free tests supplied by the USPS are rapid antigen tests that provide accurate results within 10 minutes.
Antigen tests use a nasal swab to collect the viral sample. The free tests are distributed with clear and concise directions about how best to use the test. If you have further questions or need tips about how to perform the self-test on a young child, we recommend reaching out to a licensed health care provider.
Once you have performed the test according to the directions provided, the results should appear on the test strip supplied. Refer to the direction manual for guidance on how to read the test results.
If you have received a negative test result, it is presumed that you have not been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, this is not necessarily the case. If you are experiencing symptoms of a COVID-19 infection, you should isolate yourself until you are able to undergo a more accurate PCR test. This often means waiting for a few days until symptoms have gone away.
If you have received a positive test result, it is likely that you have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, even if you do not currently have symptoms. If you have symptoms, you must isolate, per your state’s public health guidelines. If you do not have symptoms, it is recommended that you undergo a PCR test to determine whether or not you received a false-positive result or not. If the PCR test comes back positive, you should isolate yourself per the recommendation above.
It is important to note that all COVID-19 tests are diagnostic tools. They help combat the spread of the virus by informing you about whether or not you have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These tests are not a replacement for the widely-available COVID-19 vaccines. They do not protect against infections. Up-to-date vaccination is required to prevent serious illness. The CDC recommends that individuals over 6 months old stay updated on their COVID-19 vaccination.
COVID Tests on Sesame
In January 2023, Sesame announced a new partnership Lucira Health–a medical technology company focused on the development of infectious disease testing–to offer convenient and affordable COVID-19 testing and treatment. Patients who purchase the Lucira COVID-19 test are given resources to learn about treatment options, a free telehealth consultation with a licensed health care provider on Sesame if they test positive, and, if appropriate, receive a prescription from the telehealth visit for only $29 (the cost of the test).