news·4 min read

How To Get Your Free COVID-19 Test (And N95 Mask), Courtesy of the Federal Gov

Woman testing herself for COVID-19
Image: Getty | Design: theSkimm
Mar 7, 2022

Americans can now order four more free at-home COVID-19 tests from the US gov.  On Monday, the White House dropped a video saying ‘we’re open’ for new orders. Fulfilling a promise President Biden made during his State of the Union address last week. 

The program, run in partnership with the US Postal Service, kicked off in December amid the Omicron surge. And since then, more than 68 million orders have been placed. Find out how to get yours below. And how to get free N95 masks too.

Accessing Free COVID-19 Tests from the Federal Gov

How can I order my tests?

You can order yours at covidtests.gov. Or you can call 1-800-232-0233 if you can’t order yours online or need additional help.

Which test will I get?

Any rapid antigen test authorized by the FDA. Sorry, you won’t be able to pick a specific brand. All tests will come with detailed instructions. (But here’s a quick reminder: A negative self-test result means that the test didn’t detect the virus and you may not have an infection. But it does not rule out infection. One more time for the people in the back: It does not rule out infection.)

How many tests can I order?

Orders are limited to four tests per household. Regardless of the number of people who live there. 

How long will it take to arrive?

The admin has partnered with the United States Postal Service to package and send tests. All tests will ship within seven to 12 days of ordering. So if you need to get tested quicker, check out in-person testing locations in your area. President Biden has encouraged people to visit the more than 20,000 free testing sites across the nation. (But beware of fraudulent sites.)

Can I get free at-home tests another way? Will I be reimbursed? 

Yep. As of Jan. 15, the Biden admin is requiring private insurers to cover eight free over-the-counter at-home tests per month — per covered individual. Meaning: If you are part of a family of four and you’re all on the insurance plan you could get up to 32 tests covered by your insurance plan per month. And they won’t be subject to copays or deductibles. You can go to any IRL or online store that sells them (think: Walgreens, CVS, Amazon, your local pharmacy). 

Note: The reimbursement process varies by insurance provider. So the admin is recommending people save the receipts and reach out to their provider for more info on getting reimbursed. Those without insurance, or in public health insurance programs (think: Medicare), will have to either pay out of pocket or visit community health centers that offer free testing.

What if I test positive with an at-home test?

The CDC says to isolate for five days. And then wear a mask around others for five days after isolation. Alert your close contacts that they may have been exposed. If your symptoms get worse, reach out to your doctor. (Reminder: here are the symptoms to look out for.)

Accessing Free N95 Masks from the Federal Gov

How can I get my hands on these masks?

In January, the fed gov announced its plan to distribute 400 million N95 masks across the US. The CDC breaks down which pharmacies you can find them at in your state here. And for more info on finding N95 masks, check here.

Why should I get an N95 mask?

The Omicron variant is highly contagious (think: two to three times more transmissible than Delta). And health officials say that N95s are more protective than cloth and surgical masks when it comes to the variant. And can filter out up to 95% of particles — if worn properly.

How many free gov masks can I get?

The limit is three per person.

theSkimm

As we enter the third year of the pandemic, COVID-19 testing remains crucial. And access to tests is the first step to help keep the number of infections from rising, yet again.

Updated on March 7 to include info on availability of new free gov at-home tests.

Updated on Jan. 24 to include info on free N95 masks.

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