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Federal website for free COVID-19 tests opens Jan. 19


 

Americans will be able to order free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests online at COVIDTests.gov starting Jan. 19.

The tests will ship within 7 to 12 days after being ordered, senior officials from President Joe Biden’s administration said Jan. 14. The U.S. Postal Service will handle the shipping and delivery through first-class mail.

People will input their name and mailing address on the website and can share an email address to receive updates on the order, according to NPR. People won’t need to pay shipping costs or enter a credit card number to order tests, according to the website’s homepage.

The website will be offered in both English and Spanish. The Biden administration will also set up a phone number so those without internet access can place orders.

Officials didn’t share a specific time that the website will open, according to he New York Times — simply that it will go live sometime on Jan. 19. Each household will be limited to ordering four tests.

Starting Jan. 15, people with private insurance were able to seek reimbursement for tests they purchase on their own. At the same time, some insurers have said it could take weeks to set up a system for smooth reimbursement, the newspaper reported.

Last week’s announcement is the latest step in the president’s pledge to get coronavirus tests to Americans. In December, Biden said his administration would purchase 500 million tests and distribute them to Americans for free. On Jan. 13, he announced that the administration would buy another 500 million tests, bringing the total to 1 billion.

So far, the administration has signed contracts to produce 420 million tests, the newspaper reported. With the website opening this week and the lag in shipping, the tests will likely arrive by the end of January at the earliest, which could be after the peak of the current coronavirus surge in some parts of the country.

At-home tests have been in high demand, with some pharmacies, retailers, and websites reporting no stock in recent weeks. People have lined up at community testing sites for hours to get tested as the national average of daily cases has climbed above 800,000 last week.

Some consumers have also been confused about how or when to use at-home tests. On Jan. 14, Biden administration officials said that people should use rapid tests for three reasons:

  • If they begin to experience COVID-19 symptoms;
  • When it has been five or more days after being exposed to someone who tests positive;
  • If they are gathering indoors with a high-risk person and want to check if they are negative.

A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.

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