The US Postal Service has announced that it will resume the distribution of complimentary COVID-19 tests to households across the nation. This renewed initiative has been made possible through a substantial $600 million investment from the White House, which includes grants to twelve manufacturing companies responsible for test production.
Starting in January 2022, USPS had been providing free COVID-19 tests and had completed four rounds of distribution, offering a total of 20 tests per household. However, the program was temporarily halted in September 2022 due to the depletion of tests and funding. It was subsequently restarted in December 2022, only to be suspended again after the conclusion of the COVID-19 public health emergency in May 2023.
These new rounds of free tests from USPS come at a critical juncture when COVID cases are surging once more. As cases continue to rise this autumn, more individuals are keen on safeguarding themselves and their families. This article provides information on how you can obtain free tests from USPS and explores additional avenues for free COVID testing, treatment, and vaccines.
How the USPS Free COVID-19 Test Program Functions:
In January 2022, President Joe Biden introduced CovidTests.gov, a website where households could request four free rapid antigen COVID-19 tests, dispatched by USPS. Subsequent additions included four tests in March 2022, eight in May 2022, and a final four tests during the previous winter. The upcoming round of shipments will also contain four COVID tests.
Unlike complex government applications, the process of ordering free tests from the Postal Service is straightforward. Completing a brief form requesting your name and mailing address takes less than two minutes, and the tests are typically delivered within approximately one to two weeks. Individuals lacking internet access or facing online ordering difficulties can call a toll-free phone number at 800-232-0233 to request tests.
The USPS will begin accepting orders for this latest round of free COVID tests on Monday, September 25, 2023.
How to Order Free COVID-19 Tests from USPS:
Upon the commencement of COVID-19 test orders on September 25, you will only need to provide minimal information to acquire your kits. No credit or debit card details will be solicited, as both the tests and shipping are provided free of charge. Here’s how to obtain your kits once the order process becomes available:
- Visit special.USPS.com/testkits, or access it through covidtests.gov.
- Enter your contact details and shipping information.
- Click “Check Out Now.”
- Verify the accuracy of your information and select “Place My Order.”
All orders will be dispatched via First Class Package Service.
For individuals unable to access the website or encountering online ordering difficulties, free tests can be requested by calling 800-232-0233.
Estimated Arrival of Free COVID-19 Test Kits:
Tests are typically shipped within seven to twelve days of a successful order and are delivered by USPS within one to three days after shipping.
Alternative Options for Free COVID-19 Testing:
Apart from the four free COVID tests offered by USPS, three primary avenues are available for locating free COVID-19 testing sites throughout the United States: HRSA health centers, Test to Treat locations, and ICATT testing sites. While these options serve a similar purpose, specific steps for locating your nearest free testing site are outlined below:
HRSA Health Centers Offer Free COVID-19 Testing:
The Health Resources and Services Administration funds health centers nationwide where individuals can receive free COVID-19 testing. HRSA provides a locator tool for finding a nearby center. Begin by selecting your preferred language for result communication, then enter your desired location in the provided box. The locator allows you to adjust the search radius to view all available options in your area. Once you’ve identified a suitable center, visit their website for instructions on obtaining a free COVID-19 test.
Test to Treat Locations Provide COVID Testing and Treatment:
Test to Treat is a federally funded healthcare initiative offering accessible COVID-19 care, encompassing both testing and treatment for infections. A locator tool is available for finding eligible Test to Treat Centers near you. Similar to other COVID-19 testing options, you can enter your location in the search bar, and the tool will display relevant centers in your area. You can adjust the search radius to encompass all nearby Test to Treat centers. Results will provide addresses, available COVID-19 therapeutics, and any special instructions for testing.
ICATT Offers COVID Testing for the Uninsured:
Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) is a free testing program designed primarily for uninsured individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms. However, anyone, regardless of insurance status, can receive an ICATT test at program locations. Uninsured individuals do not incur testing fees, while those with insurance may need to pay a fee. The ICATT locator tool functions similarly to other COVID testing locators. Enter your address or ZIP code to find nearby ICATT locations, and adjust the search radius as needed. Follow the testing site’s steps for scheduling an appointment.
Accessing Free COVID-19 Vaccines and Booster Shots:
COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots play a vital role in protection against the virus. As the CDC recently recommended updated COVID-19 booster shots for all individuals aged 6 months and older, knowing where to obtain free COVID-19 vaccines is crucial.
The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) website affirms that “COVID-19 vaccines are 100% free for every individual living in the United States.” On September 14, 2023, the Department of Health & Human Services launched the Bridge Access Program, which continues to provide free vaccines to uninsured individuals through local health departments and HRSA centers. Additionally, the CDC has partnered with “more than 20,000 retail pharmacy locations nationwide” to offer free vaccines by modifying the existing ICATT program mentioned earlier.
The Bridge Access Program is set to conclude in December 2024, ensuring continued access to free COVID-19 vaccines until that date.