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How do you order free rapid COVID tests from the US government?

With the emergence of the Omicron variant, we have been urged to use COVID-19 rapid antigen testing to ensure we are not spreading the virus to friends and family. However, it has been very difficult to follow that suggestion, with long lines at COVID testing stations and high prices for home kits – when you can find them.

To remedy this situation, the US federal government has created a website where you can order four free rapid test kits per month per household. Although the site was supposed to officially open on Wednesday, January 19, it started collecting names and addresses a day earlier.

It is extremely easy to place your order. You do not need to provide a credit card or other financial information.

  • Go to COVIDTests.gov.
  • Tap the ‘Order Free Home Tests’ button.
  • If for some reason you don’t see the button, you can go directly to the USPS site (where the button would send you anyway) at special.usps.com/testkits.
  • Enter your name, email address (if you’d like to receive notifications), and shipping address.
  • Click the green “Check Out Now” button – and you’re done!

The USPS form for ordering free rapid tests is very simple.

So far we haven’t had any reports of problems with the site itself, although (as you can imagine) it is very popular. (according to the site) analytics.usa.govas of 2:00 PM on Tuesday, January 18, more than 700,000 people had already visited the website.)

There’s now also a phone number if you’re having trouble surfing the web or having trouble placing an order: 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).

Kits are expected to ship within 7-12 days beginning in late January. Until then, we’re on our own when it comes to rapid testing.

Remark: Some apartment dwellers report problems placing an order if someone else in their building has already done so:

A number of solutions have been suggested if this happens to you, including putting your apartment number on the same line as your address, putting your apartment number on the second address line, or using a word (such as “suite” or “apartment”) instead of a pound sign . None of these have been verified; we’ll let you know if we hear anything more. In the meantime, if you are having problems, you can try the 800 number mentioned above.

Update January 18, 2:45 PM ET: Updated to add information about potential issues ordering from an apartment.

Update January 21, 11:30 a.m. ET: Updated to add the support phone number.

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