You should take a test as soon as you start to notice symptoms or within five days of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If you’re asymptomatic and your first test is negative, take another test based on the manufacturer’s instructions. This is usually within two to three days of the first test—most tests come with two tests per box for this reason. If your test is positive, take another test to verify it and quarantine for five days.
Are Your Old Tests Expired?
You might already have a few tests on hand from past government shipments or that you’ve bought separately. They’re likely fine to use. Check the FDA’s list of authorized at-home tests. If the expiration date was extended, that means the manufacturer provided data to the FDA showing that the shelf-life is longer than it thought when it was first authorized.
Do You Need a Test Right Now?
If you need a test ASAP, please check our guide on Rapid At-Home Covid-19 Tests and Where to Find Them. It also has more information about accuracy. Rapid tests usually show results in about 15 minutes, and they’re about 85 percent accurate.
The Tests We Recommend (see our guide for more retailers).
Common Problems When Using the Site
Even though the government had two years to figure out this plan, it was not without bugs at launch. Hopefully, you’ll be able to complete your request in minutes. But here are a few common problems we’ve seen.
Do You Live in an Apartment or a Live-Work Space?
During the first round, many apartment dwellers found themselves unable to request tests because their multi-unit building was classified as a single residence. If anyone in the entire building placed an order for tests, the system thought they were requesting more than the allotted number per household.
This should be resolved, and we didn’t run into this problem the last time we ordered tests in December, but if you find this happening again, file a service request here. You may be able to resolve the issue by making sure your address is entered accurately using the USPS’ zip code search. You can also try entering your apartment’s unit number in the same box as your address instead of the Apt / Suite / Other box. The same issue happened for those who reside in a live-work building, which is common in the San Francisco Bay Area. The system sees these addresses as businesses and won’t ship tests to the location. You’ll need to file a service request.
Do You Have More Than Four People in Your House?
If you’ve used all your tests or you just have a bigger family, you’re out of luck when it comes to a free at-home kit. You can purchase more if you need them. Health insurance providers were reimbursing the cost of tests, but as of May 2023, that is no longer guaranteed. Private insurance companies can choose to reimburse customers or not, so it’s worth asking and saving receipts. If you’re on Medicaid, you’ll be able to receive free tests until September 30, 2024.
Are You Homeless?
These tests are sent to valid residential addresses and residential PO boxes only. One of the FAQs asks if tests can be picked up at another location or held at the USPS, and the answer is, unfortunately, no. If you’re homeless, reach out to your local health social service agency to find a free test.
Vaccinations and Boosters
Being vaccinated won’t stop you from getting Covid-19, but it could alleviate the worst and most dangerous symptoms. We recommend getting vaccinated if you haven’t already, and if you have, get a booster shot. Vaccines.gov should help you find somewhere near you with vaccines available—a search of my zip code showed 50 places within six miles.