Free COVID test orders have topped 10 million this round. Here’s how to get yours.

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Approximately 11 million American households have ordered their new round of free COVID-19 test kits, the White House says, over the first week since the Biden administration reopened requests. 

The U.S. Postal Service began to accept orders last Thursday for Americans to get four free rapid tests, reviving a program that had been paused earlier in the year due to a shortfall in congressional funding.

How to order your free COVID tests

Americans can place orders for this “limited round” of free tests at COVIDtests.gov. For people who cannot access the internet to place their order, a federal hotline also accepts calls during the day in English and Spanish at 1-800-232-0233.

For those who are blind or have limited vision, the Biden administration has also resumed distribution of kits designed to be “more accessible.” Those can be ordered online through the Administration for Community Living or by phone at 1-888-677-1199.

Demand seems to be lower this around compared to when the Biden administration rolled out the first wave of free at-home COVID test shipments back in January. In that first week of ordering, some 60 million homes had requested tests. 

Officials have stressed that most Americans also have other ways to get free or lower-cost COVID-19 tests, including through government-subsidized tests at sites like pharmacies and a rule requiring insurance reimbursement.

The orders have reopened as health authorities are once again tracking a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations around the country and urging people in counties with “high” COVID-19 Community Levels to wear masks indoors and take other precautions.

How long will it take to get my test?

Orders are being shipped “as quickly as possible,” the Postal Service says. The Biden administration is sending the tests through First Class Package Service for orders within the continental U.S.

Similar to the first round, a Postal Service spokesperson said that orders take around 1.2 days on average to deliver once they are shipped. 

The first orders were shipped starting this week. Around 800,000 orders are being sent out to households per day. Some were delivered as early as Monday.

Do these tests work to detect current variants?

The CDC currently estimates that the vast majority of new infections are being driven by descendants of the Omicron variant like BQ.1, BQ.1.1, and XBB. Relatively few cases now are from the original BA.5 strain that had dominated infections over the summer.

Only one home test has been identified by the Food and Drug Administration as having “reduced performance” for the BQ variants.

“The FDA maintains a webpage that discusses our efforts, in collaboration with our government partners and test developers (who are required to monitor their test for the impact of viral mutations), to evaluate the impact of the omicron variant and its sub-variants on SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests,” FDA spokesperson Lauren-Jei McCarthy said in a statement.

However, even before the current wave of variants, authorities have cautioned that most rapid home antigen tests are less sensitive than the kind of molecular tests you can get through lab-based PCR tests or pricier at-home NAAT kits.

Earlier this year, the FDA urged people to test again after 48 hours if they get a negative result or seek out one of the more accurate PCR tests.

How can I report my result?

One drawback officials have acknowledged from the widespread adoption of home tests is that it has clouded earlier metrics to track the pandemic, which had relied on labs required to report tallies of results to health departments.

Instead, the National Institutes of Health hopes people who test at home anonymously report their test results through MakeMyTestCount.org

A spokesperson for the National Institute of BIomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the NIH arm that launched the portal, said that they have received around 12,500 test results since the website launched a month ago.



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