At-home COVID-19 test kits will soon be available free to anyone in the US who wants one, according to the Biden administration. People with health insurance will have COVID-19 tests reimbursed starting Jan. 15, and the White House plans to deliver 500 million free COVID-19 tests to people who request them.
On Wednesday, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said, “The deliveries of tests from manufacturers to the US government will begin over the next week or so. Americans will start receiving free tests in the coming weeks. We will set up a free and easy system, including a new website, to get these tests out to Americans.” Zients didn’t provide an exact date for the start of delivery or the website launch.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the White House and US Postal Service are finalizing the details on a plan to deliver the 500 million free at-home COVID tests to American homes. The plan will require the Postal Service and its labor unions to agree to extend its expanded seasonal workforce — an extra 40,000 workers brought on for the holiday season.
Also on Thursday, the Department of Defense awarded its first contract related to the 500 million free at-home COVID tests — a $51.6 deal with Goldberg Security of Newport Beach, Virginia. The purchase will be paid for with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
In late December, the Pentagon announced a $137 million contract with Merck subsidiary MilliporeSigma to build a facility in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, that will manufacture nitrocellulose membranes, the paper that displays at-home test kit results. The deal will fuel the production of more than 83 million rapid COVID-19 tests a month.
The FDA has now authorized 13 rapid at-home COVID-19 test kits and 63 at-home collection tests. Due to massive demand for the tests, the FDA recently authorized two new tests — one from Siemens Healthineers and the other manufactured by Korea’s SD Biosensor and distributed by Roche.
While the FDA has declared that antigen tests “may have reduced sensitivity” in detecting the omicron strain, they can be taken at home and deliver results in 10 to 15 minutes. The more definitive PCR tests require lab technicians and a turnaround time of 12 hours to five days.
We’ll share what we know now, and continue to update this story as we learn more details, including when the free test-kit website will launch and how it will work. Also, get the latest on Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pill, Paxlovid, updates on mask mandates and how to choose the right booster shot.
Where can I get an at-home COVID-19 test?
At-home rapid COVID-19 tests are usually available at pharmacies like Walgreens, Walmart and CVS, and via online retailers like Amazon.
Concern about omicron has led to a test kit shortage and limits on how many you can purchase in many regions: Walgreens currently allows each customer to purchase a maximum of four at-home tests, while CVS sets its limit at six. Walmart caps online purchases to eight tests but has no limit on in-store purchases.
Almost all of the rapid antigen at-home tests are out of stock for online purchase due to the current rush.
On Jan. 9, the at-home tests we found available online were Abbott’s BinaxNow at Walgreens selling for $24 for two tests, and On/Go’s 10-minute self-test from Walmart, retailing for $30 for two tests. Amazon currently only has On/Go in stock at $25 for two tests. We’ll continue to update as more tests become available.
If your area drugstore is out of test kits, try your state or local health department, as many have started distributing free kits to residents. See the next section for more information and links to the states currently providing free at-home COVID tests.
How do I get free at-home test kits?
The Biden administration is working on a website where people will be able to order test kits for free, Zients said on Wednesday.
“Americans will start receiving free tests in the coming weeks. We will set up a free and easy system, including a new website, to get these tests out to Americans,” Zients said, adding that more details will come “in the days and weeks ahead.”
Several states — including Washington, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and Colorado — have already started issuing free at-home COVID tests to residents. Oregon also recently announced the purchase of 12 million at-home COVID tests and has just started the rollout. Some cities, such as New York and Boston, have also begun distributing free at-home tests. We’ll continue to update the list of states and cities if more start offering free at-home COVID tests.
On Jan. 5, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state would be purchasing an additional 5.5 million at-home tests to distribute to residents. Massachusetts and Connecticut both recently announced ambitious plans to distribute millions of tests, but hit supply-chain snags in the initial roll-outs.
Delays in receiving at-home test kits in Massachusetts forced some schools to delay reopening after the holiday break, according to WCVB in Boston. After a rough start, Connecticut has picked up the pace recently, delivering 1.8 million tests to residents in the week ending Jan. 7, according to CT Insider…Read more>>