You can now get your free at-home COVID-19 tests from the government — here’s how

5d ago

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Editor’s note: This is a continually updated story


There’s good news: Free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from the government are now available to order a day early.

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“It will officially launch tomorrow morning,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a press briefing on Monday, Jan. 17. “It’s in the beta testing phase right now.”

To order your test, simply visit COVIDTests.gov and click on Order Free At-Home Tests.

(Screenshot courtesy of U.S. government)

From there, enter your contact and shipping information, before selecting Check Out Now.

(Screenshot courtesy of U.S. government)

You’ll see a note that says orders are expected to ship later this month.

Several TPG staffers, including myself, placed orders and found the process to be painless, taking a matter of seconds.

“I signed up during my lunch break and received a confirmation email saying the order has been placed (with an order number) and that I’ll get a tracking number once the package ships,” said TPG editor Christine Smith. TPG reporter Kyle Olsen also experienced the same.

Americans are able to order up to four tests per address, which should be mailed directly to homes via USPS. Be warned that attempting to order more than once per address is not allowed.

“I can confirm it knows if you try to order two sets,” said TPG director of travel content Summer Hull. “My mom accidentally tried to order when my dad already had and it flagged.”

(Screenshot courtesy of U.S. government)
(Screenshot courtesy of U.S. government)

On Jan. 14, the Biden administration announced the distribution of 500 million tests Americans can order online.

“There will be free tests available for every household, and to promote broad access, the initial program will allow four free tests to be requested per residential address,” President Biden said in a press conference last week, while noting the more than 20,000 free testing sites across the nation.

Related: Incoming passengers from specific countries can get free COVID-19 testing at 4 U.S. airports

According to a White House spokesperson, all of the Biden administration-issued tests are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, but whether they are suitable for use for international travel depends on the country, specifically whether local officials will accept self-administered COVID-19 tests.

The United States, for example, says all air passengers age 2 and older must show proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within one day of departure for the U.S.

Per guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this test can either be a PCR or antigen test so long as it’s proctored.

So, unfortunately, the at-home tests issued by the Biden administration starting next week are unlikely to be accepted for travel to the U.S., but Abbott’s BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test and Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test, both of which were previously approved by the CDC, do work. The CDC did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Most at-home tests are antigen tests and not widely accepted abroad, though at-home tests in which your test is administered by a proctor virtually may suffice.

Instead, these tests can be used for peace of mind — such as in the days leading up to a big trip.

Be sure to consult any entry and exit rules as they pertain to COVID-19 for specific countries, outlined by the U.S. Embassy and other government officials.

Related: Your guide to at-home COVID-19 tests for international travel

Featured photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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