The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it will begin sending free COVID tests to homes across the country again. The new home tests are made possible by a $600 million investment from the White House that includes grants to 12 manufacturing companies that make the tests.
USPS has been shipping free COVID-19 tests since January 2022 and has previously conducted four rounds of testing, for a total of 20 free tests for every household. The program was halted in September 2022 when it ran out of testing and funding, then restarted in December 2022 and halted again after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency in May 2023.
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USPS’ new free testing comes at a time when COVID cases are rising and the looming colder weather is likely to put more people at risk of infection as they spend more time indoors. Learn how to get free testing from USPS and other ways to get free COVID testing, treatment and vaccines.
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How does the USPS free COVID-19 testing program work?
In January 2022, President Joe Biden announced the launch of CovidTests.gov, a website where households can order four free rapid antigen COVID-19 tests shipped by USPS. The site added four more free tests in March 2022, eight more in May 2022, and then the final four tests last winter. The new round of deliveries also includes four COVID tests.
Unlike some complicated government requests, ordering free tests from the Postal Service is easy. Filling out a short form with your name and mailing address takes less than two minutes, and tests ship in about one to two weeks. Those without internet access or those having trouble ordering online can request testing by calling toll-free 800-232-0233.
The USPS will begin accepting orders for this latest round of free COVID testing in 2019 Monday, September 25, 2023.
How do I order free COVID-19 tests from USPS?
When USPS begins accepting orders for COVID-19 tests starting September 25, you’ll just need to provide a little information to receive your kits. You will not be asked to provide your credit or debit card details as both testing and shipping are free. This way you will receive your kits as soon as the ordering process begins.
1. Visit special.USPS.com/testkits. You can also get there via covidtests.gov.
2. Enter your contact details and shipping information.
3. Click Check out now.
4. Verify that your information is correct and select Place my order.
All orders are shipped via First Class Package Service.
People who cannot access the website or have problems ordering online can call 800-232-0233 to order your free tests.
When will my free COVID-19 test kits arrive?
Tests typically ship within seven to twelve days of successful ordering and are delivered by the USPS within one to three days of shipment.
What other free COVID-19 testing options do I have?
Aside from the four free COVID tests from USPS, there are three main ways to find free COVID-19 testing locations in the U.S.: HRSA health centers, Test-to-Treat locations, and ICATT testing locations. These options work similarly, but we’ll break down the steps to find your nearest free testing location.
HRSA health centers are offering free COVID-19 testing
HRSA health centers are offering free COVID-19 testing.
HRSA/Screenshot from CNET
The Health Resources and Services Administration funds health centers throughout the United States. You can get free COVID-19 testing at these HRSA health centers. You can use HRSA’s locator tool to find a center near you.
First, select the language in which you would like to receive your results. Then simply enter the location you want to search in the label field Location. The locator also allows you to expand your search radius so you can see all the options your area has to offer.
Once you’ve found a center that’s right for you, click through to that location’s website and follow their specific instructions to get a free COVID-19 test.
Test-to-Treat sites have COVID tests and medications
The Test-to-Treat program makes COVID testing and therapeutics more accessible.
HHS/Screenshot from CNET
Test to Treat is a federally funded healthcare initiative that enables more accessible COVID-19 care. This option is different from the others in this article because you can use the Test-to-Treat centers for both COVID testing and infection treatment. Like the other free COVID-19 testing options, Test to Treat has a search tool to help you find a suitable Test to Treat center near you.
The Test-to-Treat Center Locator works like the other COVID testing search tools. Enter your location in the search bar and the tool will display test-to-treat locations near you. Using a sliding bar, you can change the size of the search radius to include all Test-to-Treat centers in your area.
In the Test-to-Treat Locator results, you can see each location’s address, the COVID-19 therapeutics they offer, and other special instructions you may need to know to get tested.
Increasing community access to testing makes COVID testing possible for the uninsured
ICATT offers free testing for uninsured patients who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or have recently been infected.
CDC/Screenshot from CNET
Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) is another free testing program you can use if you need access to free COVID-19 testing. However, ICATT works a little differently than the other programs on this list.
ICATT specifically targets uninsured patients who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. However, anyone, regardless of insurance status, can take an ICATT test at one of the program’s locations. If you do not have insurance and would like to be tested at an ICATT-authorized location, you do not have to pay for your test. If you have insurance, you may have to pay a fee.
The ICATT Locator tool works the same as the other free COVID testing locator tools – enter your address or your zip code to find ICATT locations near you. There is a search radius adjuster in this locator that allows you to optimize your search to cover the entire area you want to search.
Once you find a location, follow your testing site’s steps to schedule an appointment.
How do I get free COVID-19 vaccines and boosters?
COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots are important protection against contracting the virus or becoming seriously ill with it. Since the CDC recently recommended updated COVID-19 booster shots for everyone 6 months and older, you may be wondering how to find free COVID-19 vaccines.
If you don’t have insurance or a healthcare provider, don’t worry. The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) website states, “COVID-19 vaccines are 100% free to every person living in the United States.”
On September 14, 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Bridge Access Program, which will continue to provide free vaccines to the uninsured through local health departments and HRSA centers. CDC has also worked with “more than 20,000 retail pharmacies across the country” to provide free vaccines by modifying the existing ICATT program mentioned above.
The Bridge Access program ends in December 2024, but until then, rest assured you have access to free COVID-19 vaccines.
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Correction, September 21, 2023: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the cost of vaccinations for people without insurance. It has been updated with information about how people can get free vaccinations.