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.
Starting on Jan. 19, click on this link — COVIDTests.gov — to order tests at no cost. Even the shipping is free.
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.
When to Test
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, on Wednesday.
Officials emphasized that the federal website is just one way for people to procure COVID-19 tests. Starting on Saturday, private insurance companies will be 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. It estimates the cost of purchasing and distributing for the first block of 500 million 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.