COVID Rules Are Changing: How to Order Free COVID-19 Tests From the Post Office – CNET

Two and a half weeks after The Washington Post reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was preparing to revise its COVID-19 guidelines, the agency finally released its new rules, on Friday. Instead of recommending five days of isolation for people infected with COVID, the CDC now says those with COVID-19 should isolate until symptoms are improving and they’ve been without a fever for 24 hours.

The CDC’s new guidance is designed to align its recommendations for COVID-19 with guidelines for other widespread and contagious respiratory infections like respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and influenza (also known as the flu). After isolation, the CDC recommends five more days of extra precautions such as masking, physical distancing and rapid testing before meeting with people indoors.

Read more: Are Your COVID Tests Really Expired? Here’s How to Find Out

The CDC’s policy change may be worrisome for people who are immunocompromised or simply cautious about COVID-19. If you want to take the news as a prompt to ensure you have COVID-19 tests available to you and your family, you’re in luck. It’s still fairly easy to get your hands on free tests, vaccines and treatments — if you know where to look.

Off and on since January 2022, the US Postal Service has been taking orders for free COVID-19 tests. And right now you can still place an order for four more free COVID tests, or eight tests if you didn’t order any during the first round last September.

Read on to find out how you can get free COVID tests and to learn about other ways to get free COVID testing, treatment and vaccines.

For more, here’s what to know about long COVID, and here’s how to tell if it’s COVID, allergies or something else.

How does the free COVID-19 test program work?

In January 2022, President Joe Biden announced the launch of CovidTests.gov, a website where households could order four free rapid antigen COVID-19 tests shipped by USPS. The site added more free tests in March 2022, May 2022 and again last winter. The newest rounds of shipments also include four COVID tests.

Unlike some complicated government applications, ordering free tests from the Postal Service is simple. It takes less than two minutes to complete a short form that asks for your name and mailing address, and the tests ship in a week or two. People without internet access or folks who have trouble ordering online can request tests using a toll-free phone number: 800-232-0233.

It isn’t clear exactly how long the free COVID-19 tests will last, so it’s best to get your order in soon.

How do I order free tests?

You only need to provide a few bits of information to get your kits. You won’t be asked to provide any credit or debit card details, as both the tests and the shipping are free. Here’s how to get your free at-home test kits.

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 will be shipped via First Class Package Service.

People who can’t access the website or who have trouble ordering online can call 800-232-0233 to order their free tests.

When will my test kits arrive?

Tests are typically sent out within seven to 12 days of an order being successfully placed and are delivered by the Postal Service within one to three days of shipping.

What are my other free testing options? 

Aside from the tests from the Postal Service, you have three main avenues to find free COVID-19 testing locations across the US: HRSA health centers, Test to Treat locations and ICATT testing sites. These options function similarly, but we’ll break down the specific steps to find your nearest free testing location.

HRSA health centers offer free COVID-19 testing

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HRSA health centers offer free COVID-19 testing.&nbsp;

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map of Test to Treat locations for COVID testing near Atlanta map of Test to Treat locations for COVID testing near Atlanta

The Test to Treat program makes COVID testing and therapeutics more accessible. 

HHS/Screenshot by CNET

Test to Treat is a federally funded health care initiative that provides more accessible COVID-19 care. This option differs from the others in this article as you can use the Test to Treat centers to receive both COVID testing and treatment for infections. Like the other COVID-19 free testing options, Test to Treat has a locator tool that you can use to find an eligible Test to Treat center near you. 

The Test to Treat center locator works like the other COVID testing search tools. Enter your location into the search bar and the tool will display Test to Treat locations in your area. A sliding bar lets you resize the search radius to capture all of the Test to Treat centers within your area. 

Within the Test to Treat locator results, you’ll be able to see each location’s address, which COVID-19 therapeutics they offer and other special instructions you might need to know to get tested. If there’s not an option to schedule a COVID test online through your chosen site, you may need to call.

Increasing Community Access to Testing provides COVID testing for the uninsured

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ICATT offers free testing to uninsured patients who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have recently been exposed.

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