The Biden administration is making free at-home COVID tests available to the public this week, after the president revealed in December he would do so as part of his strategy to combat winter case surges.
The federal government is supplying 500 million over-the-counter kits—a purchase worth roughly $4 billion, according to administration staffers—to American households, which can each order up to four kits. The program is scheduled to begin Wednesday, January 19—but as of midday Tuesday, its official website is already up and running.
How to get your free tests
- The primary distribution channel is the program’s website: covidtests.gov. By following the link to a USPS order form, you can place your order—shipping and handling included, no credit card required—as early as right now. (An administration representative told Spectrum News that the program had a soft rollout “in beta phase” a day ahead of time to “address troubleshooting”—but White House staffers previously warned that any website launch can become glitch-ridden, so we’d recommend getting in quick, before the likely rush accompanying tomorrow’s publicized start date.)
- According to a White House statement, it will also launch a free call line for “those unable to access the website,” although it did not yet provide the number.
- Tests are available to every residential address in the country, including U.S. territories and overseas military and diplomatic outposts.
- According to the White House, it’s currently prioritizing orders “to households experiencing the highest social vulnerability and in communities that have experienced a disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and deaths,” although it did not specify how the prioritizing will be done.
The tests are expected to ship first class, 7 to 12 days after ordering, per the official website. It did not specify how long they would be in transit—although given recent post office delays, some are expressing concern that the kits, critical for containing the spread of the virus, will not arrive until after case surges linked to the omicron variant have already peaked.
The Biden administration has said it’s striving for broad, equitable access to the tests. The four-kit household limit serves to prevent hoarding, and the administration also said it’s working with national and local organizations supporting high-risk communities to raise awareness for the program and help people submit requests. On Thursday, it said it would procure another 500 million tests for Americans, bringing the total to 1 billion.
Earlier this week, it mandated that private health insurance companies must also cover 100% of costs for at-home COVID tests, and fattened the supply of COVID tests to public schools by 10 million per month.