- The White House has set up a new round of free at-home COVID-19 tests.
- People who live in the United States can order up to 8 free tests by logging onto COVIDtest.gov.
- Experts say the free tests should be particularly beneficial to families, people who are traveling, and people who have returned to the workplace.
- They note, however, that 8 tests per household may not be enough if new COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
That makes access to COVID-19 rapid tests, which can be an important risk-mitigation tool, all the more important – especially as summer approaches and gatherings among families and friends inevitably increase.
In response, the Biden administration recently announced it would make eight additional free rapid tests available through the U.S. Postal Service to order at COVIDtest.gov.
The administration previously offered two rounds of 4 free COVID tests per household through the same website earlier in the pandemic.
“As we move forward into the phase where we live with COVID-19 as part of our everyday lives, availability and use of free tests will become part of our arsenal in calculating personal risks to ourselves and our loved ones,” said W. Susan Cheng, Ph.D., MPH, an associate dean for Public Health Practice and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.
“Over a third of Americans are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 and future variants will test the lasting immunity from vaccines and boosters,” Cheng told Healthline. “As we gather for holidays or social events or make decisions about going to work or school with ‘cold-like symptoms,’ the ability of a test to capture positive cases becomes an important resource in our toolkit.”
“Freely and widely available tests can make the difference between the early days of sheltering in place and lockdowns, and a community that moves forward with powerful tools to make the best data-driven choices on everyday decisions,” she added.
Experts say the announcement of these free tests is well-timed with a present increase in cases, too.
“When case counts increase and people’s perceived risk increases, we tend to see greater use of COVID-19 home tests,” said David Souleles, MPH, the director of the COVID-19 Response and MPH Program at the University of California Irvine. “If you think back to the Omicron surge in January, home test kits were in high demand and supply was very low.”
“As we move through this pandemic, we need to normalize the use of these tests in our communities as a key tool to help prevent further transmission of COVID-19,” Souleles told Healthline.
Ordering free at-home tests is simple.
Every household in the United States is eligible for these tests without means-testing.
Log onto COVIDtest.gov and click the “Order Free At-Home Tests” link, which will redirect you to a Postal Service order page.
Input your contact information and shipping address, and you’re good to go.
Experts, however, say that eight tests may not be enough to keep up with the pandemic’s ebbs and flows. A more robust testing strategy could be required.
“Free tests will most likely continue to be made available to the public, but the quantity needed to make these tests useful for making everyday decisions is the real challenge,” Cheng said. “In a household of four individuals, on average, a good number of tests would be closer to four-to-eight tests per week. This covers testing before socializing indoors, unmasked, when seeing a grandparent or a friend or neighbor who is immune-compromised, and this covers testing for that sore throat or fever or cough.”
Currently, people in the United States with health insurance can also be reimbursed for up to eight tests per month for each individual on their plan through their health insurance provider.
However, there’s currently no streamlined way to seek reimbursement, which varies from provider to provider. And uninsured Americans will need to pay out of pocket.
“It is an important public health measure to decrease the barriers to access to these tests,” Cheng said. “If widely and abundantly available, people would be more likely to use tests before visiting with others indoors when rates start to rise again.”