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You can order free at-home COVID tests from the government right now

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In an effort to combat the latest wave of COVID-19 infections sweeping the country, the government is buying 1 billion at-home test kits to send out to Americans free of charge.

Late last year, the Biden administration announced plans to purchase 500 million test kits to send out to households around the country. Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz revealed last week during a press briefing that the government has since committed to buying an additional 500 million tests. The plan was to make the free COVID test kits available to the public on Wednesday, January 19th. But the wait is over because the USPS is already taking orders on its website.

How to get your free at-home COVID tests

The government recently launched the new website COVIDtests.gov as the hub for delivering free test kits to Americans. As the site explains, every household is eligible to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests. They will attempt to ship orders within 7 to 12 days.

If you visit the website now, you’ll see a big blue button that reads Order Free At-Home Tests. When you click that button, you’ll be redirected to a special USPS website. On this page, you’ll be required to enter your first name, last name, and shipping address. You can also provide your email if you want to receive shipping notifications. You won’t need to supply your ID or any payment details.

Once you place your order, you should receive a confirmation in your email inbox (if you provided an email address). The federal government says that orders within the continental United States will use First Class Package Service. USPS will use Priority Mail for shipments to Alaska, Hawaii, U.S. Territories, and overseas military and diplomatic addresses.

It is also worth noting that you can’t pick your order up at a Post Office or another address. The goal is to get tests directly to households.

Of note, if you want more than four tests or if you don’t want to wait weeks to receive them, there are plenty of COVID-19 home test kits in stock now.

Free COVID test kits are going out now
A woman taking an at-home COVID-19 test. Image source: COVIDtests.gov

More details from COVIDtests.gov

According to the government’s website, the free COVID test kits that it’s sending out this month:

  • Are rapid antigen at-home tests, not PCR
  • Can be taken anywhere
  • Give results within 30 minutes (no lab drop-off required)
  • Work whether or not you have COVID-⁠19 symptoms
  • Work whether or not you are up to date on your COVID-⁠19 vaccines
  • Are also referred to self-tests or over-the-counter (OTC) tests

There are a few reasons that you might consider taking an at-home test. If you begin having COVID-⁠19 symptoms like fever, sore throat, runny nose, or loss of taste or smell, take a test. If it’s been at least 5 days since you came into contact with someone with COVID-⁠19, take a test. And if you are planning to gather with a group of people, especially those at risk of severe disease, take a test first.

Tests should start going out before the end of the month. It remains to be seen how efficient or effective this program will be, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Jacob started covering video games and technology in college as a hobby, but it quickly became clear to him that this was what he wanted to do for a living. He currently resides in New York writing for BGR. His previously published work can be found on TechHive, VentureBeat and Game Rant.