Free at-home COVID tests from the US government are back. Here’s how to get them

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(WASHINGTON) — The Biden administration this week relaunched the website where Americans can once again order free at-home COVID tests.

The website had been shut down since June but came back online just as updated COVID vaccines rolled out across the country.

Here’s how to order the tests and why you should not throw out old ones.

How to order free COVID test kits through USPS

Visit COVID.gov/tests and you will see instructions directing you to a website run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to order a kit that comes with four tests.

You don’t have to pay for shipping. Just provide your name and address to place the order.

The Federal Trade Commission sent out an alert that government employees will never call, text or email Americans for information on receiving the tests. Credit card information, bank account information and Social Security number are not required to place an order.

If you live in a building or a multi-unit residence or with roommates, consider putting your apartment number ahead of your street address to avoid receiving an error message that the address has already been used.

How long will it take for the free COVID test kits to arrive?

Tests kits will take about one week from when the order was placed, but could take longer due to shipping delays.

If you would like an email confirmation and USPS delivery updates, you can enter your email address when placing the order.

Why not to throw out if they are past their expiration date

Some of the test boxes may arrive with an expiration date that has passed but the Food and Drug Administration warns against throwing them away.

Earlier in the pandemic, COVID tests kits were rolled out typically with a shelf life of about four to six months due to unknowns about how long they would be effective, experts said.

However, the FDA extended expiration dates based on additional data from manufacturers.

To check for an extended expiration date, visit the FDA webpage for at-home tests, which indicates the brands that have an extended date and provides a PDF for each test with new expiration dates.

You can find the lot number on the package, near the expiration date, and then check the PDF to see if it’s among those dates.

Where else can I get free COVID tests?

Since the public health emergency ended on May 11 of this year, access to free testing has dwindled. There are, however, still some avenues to access no-cost testing.

For those who are uninsured — as long as they are symptomatic or have been exposed to COVID — they can visit the CDC website, which lists sites for free testing at Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) locations.

Free testing may also differ by geographic location. In New York City, for example, free testing is available at NYC Health + Hospitals locations and community care clinics. Free rapid tests are also available at public libraries.

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