Free at-home COVID-19 test kits are back. Here's how to get yours.

  • Effective Monday, the federal government will mail out four free COVID-19 tests to every household that requests them.

    Effective Monday, the federal government will mail out four free COVID-19 tests to every household that requests them. Courtesy of COVID.gov.

 
 
Updated 9/26/2023 8:27 AM

Monday marked the return of free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government, a move that comes amid an uptick in patients hospitalized with the virus.

Individual households are eligible for a set of four rapid antigen tests that can be ordered online by going to covid.gov/tests or special.usps.com/testkits.

 

It's timely because "the COVID-19 numbers are going up and we expect them to go up over the winter," said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, Edward Hospital's medical director of infection control and prevention.

"Getting tested early in the onset of symptoms will catch this infection early so we can get started on treatment early," he advised.

Meanwhile, if your bathroom cupboard is stuffed with older COVID-19 tests and you're not sure about their shelf lives, check the expiration date on the kit.

Officials recommend against using expired kits, but the shelf life of numerous manufacturer's tests have been extended. To learn more, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website has a list of updated expiry dates for multiple brands.

Although several new COVID-19 variants are circulating, it appears the effectiveness of current tests to detect the virus will continue, public health experts said.

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The government halted a free at-home test distribution program last summer, as COVID-19 rates dropped and various public health emergencies ended this year.

The reset comes as current U.S. Centers for Disease Control trends show rising hospital admissions for the virus. Illinois experienced a 7.3% increase in hospitalizations as of Sept. 9 compared to the week before, the CDC reported.

Locally, after a high of 163 COVID-19 patients during the omicron surge, Edward Hospital had a few weeks with no admissions this June. An uptick started in August, and now the Naperville hospital is seeing 14 to 18 patients a week, Pinsky said.

Last week, the White House announced $600 million would be allocated for the at-home tests as well as grants to 12 U.S. companies to manufacture more.

Here's more information about COVID-19 testing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• When are tests mailed out? Kits will be shipped by the U.S. Postal Service, starting Monday.

• Don't have access to a computer? Help is available at (800) 232-0233.

• How many tests are being given out? Households are limited to four each.

• Not sure whether to test for COVID-19? The CDC advises testing immediately when symptoms appear. These include: fever or chills, cough, head or muscle aches, sore throat, nausea and a runny nose.

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