Mar 7, 2024 - Health

Friday is last day to order free COVID tests from government

COVID test kit on top of USPS padded envelope with a postcard explaining test expiration dates

The free at-home COVID test program that launched in 2022 is being suspended. Photo: Kelly Tyko/Axios

March 8 is the last day to order free at-home COVID tests from the government before the program is suspended.

Why it matters: Cases have been falling as the respiratory virus season winds down. But hundreds of people are still dying from COVID-19 every week, according to CDC data.

The big picture: The suspension of the testing program comes as the CDC recently eased isolation guidance for the virus and urged older adults to receive a second shot of the updated COVID-19 vaccine.

Flashback: The Department of Health and Human Services at-home COVID test program first launched in January 2022 and initially allowed for four free tests per residential address, regardless of how many lived in a household.

  • The program has been expanded and paused multiple times over the last two years. It was revived again in September 2023 with the last round of tests available since Nov. 20.

What's next: The agency will continue distributing millions of tests per week to long-term care facilities, food banks, health centers and schools, a spokesperson told Axios.

  • It's possible the test program could resume in the future.

How to order free COVID tests from USPS

Zoom in: Orders for free tests placed on or before Friday will be delivered, according to HHS.

  • You can order four free tests through COVIDTests.gov, which directs people to a U.S. Postal Service site.
  • If you have not placed an order since the program reopened on Sept. 25, you can place two orders for a total of eight tests, the website says.

Between the lines: For those who can't order tests through the website, there's also a government hotline for help placing orders, 1-800-232-0233 or TTY 1-888-720-7489.

Expiration dates on COVID tests

The Food & Drug Administration has extended the expiration dates for several over-the-counter COVID tests, adding several months to the "use by" date.

  • A full list of approved tests and their revised expiration dates is posted on the FDA website.

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