Looking to stock up on COVID-19 test kits? The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it will provide eight more home testing kits free of charge to any US household that wants them.
The offer, like the one the administration made in January, is unconditional. You can order the kits online or by phone, and the kits will ship to any address in the United States, US territories, US military bases, and diplomatic facilities.
The only caveat is that each household will be limited to eight tests at this launch, in addition to up to eight previously mailed out.
Although documented COVID cases remain well below the peak they reached in January, they have been rising statewide and in Los Angeles County along with hospital admissions. The country recently recorded its 1 millionth death from a pandemic that has lasted for more than two years.
That’s why LA County health officials are asking residents to put on masks indoors again, and the administration is urging people to keep testing themselves. However, the response to the government’s previous offer of free kits hasn’t been overwhelming — according to the White House, more than 70 million households have ordered kits online, out of about 130 million households in the US
Here’s what you need to know about the latest free test kit offering.
How do I order them?
The exercise is the same as the last round of free test kits. The easiest way is to visit COVID.gov/tests where you can place an order through the US Postal Service. The only information you need to provide is your name and address.
It is important that you provide your apartment or unit number to avoid exceeding the per household order limit. If you’re having trouble getting tests because you share a household with other households, you can call the Postal Service at (800) 275-8777 or ask for help online.
And if you can’t get online or need the information in another language, you can call (800) 232-0233 (TTY (888) 720-7489) any weekday between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time Help in more than 150 languages. The Disability Information and Access Line can also assist people with disabilities with their orders; You can reach DIAL by email at DIAL@usaginganddisability.org or by phone at (888) 677-1199, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time.
The kits come in two packs of four tests each. The tests are not only free of charge, but there are also no shipping costs. The White House says the Post has delivered most kits within 48 hours of receiving an order.
If you have not yet ordered any tests, you can still order them now. For answers to frequently asked questions about the free testing program, visit covid.gov/tests/faq.
Health plan holders can also be reimbursed for up to eight tests a month – and in some cases they get the tests at no cost to themselves. Check with your insurer to see if local pharmacies offer testing at no upfront cost, and if not, how to claim a refund.
What are these tests?
The kits contain antigen tests that check whether a sample taken from your nostrils contains a protein that binds to coronavirus RNA. They get results quickly and inexpensively — commercially, boxes of two tests cost between $16 and $24 — but the more expensive molecular tests can detect lower levels of the coronavirus in your system.
Antigenic testing has proven to be as effective as molecular testing in preventing false positive results. And according to the CDC, these tests are just as good at detecting COVID-19 in someone showing symptoms of the disease, such as a cough, fever, and sore throat.
Where testing falls short, the CDC warns, are people who have the virus but are not showing symptoms, particularly if they are in the early stages of infection and may not yet have enough viral load to infect others. The agency recommends doing a second antigen test a few days after the first, which is why the kits are sold in packs of two.
The tests don’t last forever; The kits have expiration dates printed on the packaging. However, the Post noted that the CareStart-branded tests distributed earlier this year have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for three more months past their printed expiration date.
When should I take a test?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list five possible triggers for performing a COVID test:
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms.
- If you know or suspect you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 (in which case you should test yourself five days later).
- If your school, workplace, or other group setting conducts tests to screen for infection.
- Before and after the trip.
- If you are asked by a healthcare professional or public health official to undergo a test.
One problem with that first point, however, is that COVID shares a number of symptoms with colds, allergies, and the flu. The Mayo Clinic has an online guide to help you sort through all three. The Times provided this overview of the differences between allergy and COVID symptoms. And here’s the CDC’s guide to distinguishing between COVID and the flu.
https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2022-05-17/feds-offer-more-free-covid-home-test-kits More free COVID rapid tests are available. Here’s how to get yours