At Home COVID Test: Free Kits Available Now at COVIDTests.gov, Shipped by USPS

The federal government launched a website for free at-home COVID-19 tests on Tuesday, a day earlier than planned. COVIDTests.gov allows anyone to place an order for four free at-home tests, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. The Biden Administration announced the program last month and planned to make 500,000 tests available to order, beginning on Jan. 19.

The soft launch on Tuesday came as a surprise. A White House official later told CNN the site is only in the beta test phase to make sure it works before the official launch on Wednesday. "This is standard practice to address the troubleshooting and ensure as smooth of an official launch tomorrow as possible. We expect the website to officially launch mid-morning tomorrow," the official said.

COVIDTests.gov includes a link to USPS.com/covidtests, where Americans can enter their contact information and shipping address to receive four tests per order. There is a limit of one order per household and they begin shipping in "late January." The tests provided are rapid antigen at-home tests, not PCR tests.

In December, President Joe Biden announced a slate of new actions amid the growing spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. At the time, Biden announced that Americans with private insurance could get at-home tests reimbursed by their insurance. On Friday, the White House announced it was buying 1 billion tests to distribute for free, with half of those being made available through a federal website.

"Testing is an important tool to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19," the White Hosue said last week. "Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that Americans use at-home tests if they begin to have symptoms, at least five days after coming in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or are gathering indoors with a group of people who are at risk of severe disease or unvaccinated. To help ensure Americans have tests on hand if a need arises, the Biden Administration is purchasing one billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to give to Americans for free. A half-billion tests will be available for order on January 19th and will be mailed directly to American households."

Some Americans were able to get free tests earlier through a portal launched with the National Association of Community Health Workers for people living in "high-risk" areas, reports CBS News. The White House is also launching a hotline for anyone with questions on the ordering process.

Although Americans have expressed concern with the USPS' ability to deliver packages on time, the administration has confidence the agency can deliver the tests on time. The tests will be shipped using first-class mail. According to the USPS, 90% of first-class mail was delivered on time in the first week of 2022.

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"The 650,000 women and men of the United States Postal Service are ready to deliver and proud to play a critical role in supporting the health needs of the American public," Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a statement. "We have been working closely with the Administration and are well prepared to accept and deliver test kits on the first day the program launches."