COVID-19 cases are on the rise once again. If you want to be armed with tests to help fight off a potential fall and winter surge, you’re in luck. The US Postal Service is still shipping free COVID-19 tests, thanks to a $600 million investment from the White House. Every household in the US is able to order four tests, and it takes only two minutes (or less) to do it.
The Postal Service has, off and on, been taking orders for free COVID-19 tests since January 2022 and has previously delivered four rounds, totaling 20 free tests for each household. The federal government first paused the program in September 2022 when it ran out of tests and funding, then restarted it in December and halted it again after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency in May this year.
Read more: Your Expired COVID Test Kits Are Probably Still Good. How to Find Out
The new free tests from the Postal Service comes at a time when hospitalization rates related to COVID-19 are rising and infection rates are expected to grow through the fall. Read on to learn how you can get the free tests and 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 USPS 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 the Postal Service. The site added four more free tests in March 2022, eight more in May 2022 and then a final four last winter. The new round of shipments will 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 asking for your name and mailing address, and the tests ship in about a week or two. People without internet access or those who have trouble ordering online can request tests using a toll-free phone number: 800-232-0233.
It’s not clear exactly how long the free COVID-19 tests will last, so it’s best to get your order in early.
How do I order free tests from USPS?
Now that the Postal Service is again taking orders for COVID-19 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
The Health Resources and Services Administration funds health centers across the US. At these HRSA health centers, you will be able to receive free COVID-19 testing. You can use HRSA’s locator tool to find a center near you.
First, select the language you would like to receive your results in. Then simply enter the location you wish to search into the box labeled Location. The locator also allows you to widen your search radius, so you can see all the options your area has to offer.
Once you’ve found a center that works for you, click through to that particular location’s website and follow their specific instructions for obtaining a free COVID-19 test.
Test to Treat locations have COVID testing and medicine
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.
Increasing Community Access to Testing provides COVID testing for the uninsured
Increasing Community Access to Testing, or ICATT, is another free testing program that you can use if you need access to free COVID-19 testing. However, ICATT works a bit differently than the other programs on this list.
ICATT is specifically designed for uninsured patients who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. However, anyone can get an ICATT test at one of the program’s locations, regardless of insurance status. If you are uninsured and you wish to be tested at an ICATT eligible site, you will not need to pay for your test. If you are insured, you might need to pay a fee.
The ICATT locator tool works just like the other locator tools for free COVID testing — input your address or your ZIP code to find ICATT locations near you. There is a search radius adjuster in this locator to tweak your searches to capture the entire area that you want to search.
Once you’ve found a location, follow your testing site’s steps for scheduling your appointment.
How can I get free COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots?
COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are an important protection against contracting or getting seriously ill from the virus. Since the CDC recently recommended updated COVID-19 booster shots for everyone 6 months or older, you might be wondering how to find free COVID-19 vaccines.
If you don’t have insurance or a health provider, don’t worry. The Department of Health and Human Services website says, “COVID-19 vaccines are 100% free for every individual living in the United States.”
On Sept. 14, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Bridge Access Program, which will continue to provide free vaccines to those who are uninsured though local health departments and HRSA centers. CDC has also partnered with “more than 20,000 retail pharmacy locations nationwide” to provide free vaccines by modifying the existing ICATT program mentioned above.
The Bridge Access Program will end in December 2024, but until then, you can be sure that you’ll be able to access free COVID-19 vaccines.
For more, learn how your blood type could make you more susceptible to COVID and everything to know about the updated COVID-19 boosters.
Correction, Sept. 21, 2023: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the cost of vaccines for people without insurance. It has been updated with information about how people can get free vaccines.