You now can order a third round of free COVID home tests. Here’s how to get them

Andrew Harnik/AP
·2 min read

Every household in the U.S. is now eligible to order a third set of free, at-home COVID-19 tests.

People who sign up to receive more tests will get two packages of four rapid antigen tests each, according to the United States Postal Service. The packages will ship for free and will come with tracking numbers, USPS said.

The first round of orders, sent out in January, contained four tests each. In the second round, sent out in early March, people could order up to 8 tests, McClatchy News reported.

Those interested in signing up to receive the free tests can do so at covid.gov/tests, a website operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. People can also order tests over the phone by calling 1-800-232-0233, according to the website.

Rapid antigen tests can be self-administered and deliver results within 15 to 30 minutes. People are encouraged to use the tests if they’re experiencing potential coronavirus symptoms, like a cough or fever. They’re also urged to use them several days after being in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or before attending gatherings.

Antigen tests are somewhat less accurate than PCR tests, which can detect smaller amounts of the virus. Positive results for antigen tests are very likely to be accurate, but negative results may be false and don’t necessarily rule out the possibility of infection, according to a 2020 announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“With this in mind, negative results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed with a PCR test prior to making treatment decisions or to prevent the possible spread of the virus due to a false negative,” the announcement said.

However, the use of antigen tests is still encouraged because they can allow millions of Americans to be tested more frequently and at a lower cost, the FDA said.

After getting the test kits in the mail, people are encouraged to bring them inside quickly to avoid any potential issues with the results from high heat exposure, McClatchy News reported. People are also urged to keep the tests away from children, as a chemical in the testing fluid can make people sick or cause irritation if consumed, according to McClatchy News.

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