Free at-home COVID tests: Here’s how to get them

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Epidemiologist Says, At-Home Testing, May Help Stop the Pandemic.NPR reports that the COVID-19 response plan, unveiled by the Biden administration last week, aims to increase the accessibility of rapid tests for COVID-19.The Biden administration would spend $2 billion on 280 million quick-turnaround tests.Those tests would be distributed to community health centers, food banks, testing sites, shelters, prisons and other congregate settings.Those tests would be distributed to community health centers, food banks, testing sites, shelters, prisons and other congregate settings.The plan also relies on Walmart, Amazon and Kroger to sell rapid tests at wholesale cost for the next three months.The plan also relies on Walmart, Amazon and Kroger to sell rapid tests at wholesale cost for the next three months.Such quick-turnaround tests can be taken at home or at a health care facility and deliver results often in under an hour.Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiology professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has been an outspoken proponent for wide availability of rapid tests.Should anything go wrong with the vaccines, we need backup plans. If new variants come around that get around people's immune systems, .., Dr. Michael Mina, Epidemiology professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, via NPR.... especially in elderly whose immune systems a year after they get vaccinated might be waning in terms of their level of protection, we want to be able to limit spread as much as possible, Dr. Michael Mina, Epidemiology professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, via NPR.But according to CNN, there are already reports of these rapid at-home antigen tests being hard to find on store shelves and online.We are about to see what I think is going to be another testing crisis in this country. While I am extraordinarily supportive of the president's action plan to increase the accessibility.., Dr. Michael Mina, Epidemiology professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, via NPR.... and availability of these rapid tests... unfortunately, we do not have the scale of either [rapid or PCR] tests to be able to get fast turnaround time, Dr. Michael Mina, Epidemiology professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, via NPR

The White House says the federal website where Americans can request free COVID-19 tests will begin accepting orders on Wednesday

WASHINGTON — The federal website where Americans can request free COVID-19 tests will begin accepting orders on Wednesday as the White House looks to address nationwide shortages, but supplies will be limited to just four free tests per home.

The website COVIDTests.gov will provide tests at no cost, including no shipping fee, the White House announced last week. The site explains the program and provides other resources, but the direct link to where it sends users to place orders through the U.S. Postal Service is https://special.usps.com/testkits.

However, some people were already checking out the site on Tuesday. According to The Washington Post, a White House official said the website is operating at limited capacity to ensure a smooth launch Wednesday. Two Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalists were able to confirm the site is operating and accepted orders Tuesday.

As he faced criticism for low inventory and long lines for testing, President Joe Biden announced last month that the U.S. would purchase 500 million at-home tests to launch the program and last Thursday the president announced that he was doubling the order to 1 billion tests.

But Americans shouldn't expect a rapid turn-around on the orders and they will have to plan ahead and request the tests well before they meet federal guidelines for when to use a test.

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The White House said “tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering" through the U.S. Postal Service, which reports shipping times of 1-3 days for its first-class package service in the continental United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at-home testing when experiencing COVID-19 systems including fever, cough, sore throat, respiratory symptoms and muscle aches, five days after a potential COVID-19 exposure, or as part of test-to-stay protocols in schools and workplaces.

“Certainly if you’re going to gather with family, if you’re going to a gathering where people are immunocompromised or where they’re elderly or where you have people who might be unvaccinated or poorly protected from a vaccine that might be an opportunity you want to test,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director.

ExploreMega-sites open in metro Atlanta for testing

Officials emphasized that the federal website is just one way for people to procure COVID-19 tests. Effective last weekend, private insurance companies are required to cover the cost of at-home rapid tests, allowing Americans to be reimbursed for tests they purchase at pharmacies and online retailers. That covers up to eight tests per month.

The White House said the four-test limit on website orders will be applied to each residential address and will apply to the first tranche of 500 million tests. It estimates that the cost of purchasing and distributing the first block of tests at $4 billion.

Officials said they are cognizant that any launch of a website carries some risks — and memories of the disastrous roll-out during the Obama administration of Healthcare.gov are still fresh — but said they believe they are well-positioned to handle expected demand for tests beginning Wednesday.