Just One Day Remains to Order Free COVID-19 Tests From USPS

The season of free COVID tests from the US Postal Service is ending a little before winter does. The dedicated USPS site for ordering free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests from the government added an ominous notice on Monday: The site will stop accepting orders for COVID-19 tests this Friday, March 8.

a screenshot of the USPS free COVID test page showing a notice that the program for shipping free tests will be ending March 8. It also says that people can find  out more information on free testing resources in the COVIDTests.gov Testing Resources section or by calling 1-800-232-0233, TTY 1-888-720-7489

USPS/Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

Read more: Are Your COVID Tests Really Expired? How to Find Out

Off and on since January 2022, the US Postal Service has been taking orders for free COVID-19 tests. And right now you can still place an order for four more free COVID tests, or eight tests if you didn’t order any during the previous round last September.

This announcement comes on the heels of the CDC shifting its official COVID isolation guidelines. Instead of the typical five-day isolation period, the CDC now recommends that you be fever-free and see your symptoms improve for 24 hours before returning to your normal activities.  

Read on to find out how you can get free COVID tests and to learn about other ways to get free COVID testing, treatment and vaccines.

For more, here’s what to know about long COVID, and here’s how to tell if it’s COVID, allergies or something else.

What is the free USPS COVID-19 test program?

In January 2022, President Joe Biden announced the launch of CovidTests.gov, a website where households could order four free rapid antigen COVID-19 tests shipped by USPS. The site added several more free tests through the months of 2022, and then again this past winter, starting on Sept. 25, 2023.

The addition of four more free tests on Nov. 20 brought a total of eight rapid antigen tests per US household in the latest batch for this winter season. If you haven’t ordered any tests from the latest batch, you can receive all eight if you order them from the Postal Service by Friday, March 8.

Unlike some complicated government applications, ordering free tests from the Postal Service is simple. It takes less than two minutes to complete a short form that asks for your name and mailing address, and the tests ship in a week or two. People without internet access or folks who have trouble ordering online can request tests using a toll-free phone number: 800-232-0233.

How do I order free COVID tests from the Post Office?

You only need to provide a few bits of information to get your free COVID tests. You won’t be asked to provide any credit or debit card details, as both the tests and the shipping are free. Here’s how to get your at-home rapid antigen test kits.

1. Visit special.USPS.com/testkits. You can also get there via covidtests.gov.
2. Enter your contact details and shipping information.
3. Click Check Out Now.
4. Verify that your information is correct and select Place My Order.

All orders will be shipped via First Class Package Service.

Again, people who can’t access the website or who have trouble ordering online can call 800-232-0233 to order their free tests.

When will my test kits arrive?

Tests are typically sent out within seven to 12 days of an order being successfully placed and are delivered by the Postal Service within one to three days of shipping.

What are my other free testing options? 

Aside from the tests from the Postal Service, you have three main avenues to find free COVID-19 testing locations across the US: HRSA health centers, Test to Treat locations and ICATT testing sites. These options function similarly, but we’ll break down the specific steps to find your nearest free testing location.

HRSA health centers offer free COVID-19 testing

map of HRSA health center locations for COVID testing near Detroit

HRSA health centers offer free COVID-19 testing. 

HRSA/Screenshot by CNET

The Health Resources and Services Administration funds health centers across the US. At these HRSA health centers, you will be able to receive free COVID-19 testing. You can use HRSA’s locator tool to find a center near you.

First, select the language you would like to receive your results in. Then simply enter the location you wish to search into the box labeled Location. The locator also allows you to widen your search radius, so you can see all the options your area has to offer. 

Once you’ve found a center that works for you, click through to that particular location’s website and follow their specific instructions for obtaining a free COVID-19 test. 

Test to Treat locations have COVID testing and medicine

map of Test to Treat locations for COVID testing near Atlanta

The Test to Treat program makes COVID testing and therapeutics more accessible. 

HHS/Screenshot by CNET

Test to Treat is a federally funded health care initiative that provides more accessible COVID-19 care. This option differs from the others in this article as you can use the Test to Treat centers to receive both COVID testing and treatment for infections. Like the other COVID-19 free testing options, Test to Treat has a locator tool that you can use to find an eligible Test to Treat center near you. 

The Test to Treat center locator works like the other COVID testing search tools. Enter your location into the search bar and the tool will display Test to Treat locations in your area. A sliding bar lets you resize the search radius to capture all of the Test to Treat centers within your area. 

Within the Test to Treat locator results, you’ll be able to see each location’s address, which COVID-19 therapeutics they offer and other special instructions you might need to know to get tested. If there’s not an option to schedule a COVID test online through your chosen site, you may need to call.

Increasing Community Access to Testing provides COVID testing for the uninsured

a map showing ICATT COVID testing locations near Chicago

ICATT offers free testing to uninsured patients who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have recently been exposed.

CDC/Screenshot by CNET

Increasing Community Access to Testing, or ICATT, is another free testing program that you can use if you need access to free COVID-19 testing. ICATT works a bit differently than the other programs on this list. 

ICATT is specifically designed for uninsured patients who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone can get an ICATT test at one of the program’s locations, regardless of insurance status. If you are uninsured and you wish to be tested at an ICATT-eligible site, you will not need to pay for your test. If you are insured, you might need to pay a fee. 

The ICATT locator tool works just like the other locator tools for free COVID testing — input your address or your ZIP code to find ICATT locations near you. There is a search radius adjuster in this locator to tweak your searches to capture the entire area that you want to search. 

Once you’ve found a location, follow your testing site’s steps for scheduling your appointment. 

How can I get free COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots?

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are an important protection against contracting or getting seriously ill from the virus. Since the CDC has recommended updated COVID-19 booster shots for everyone 6 months or older, you might be wondering how to find free COVID-19 vaccines. 

If you don’t have insurance or a health provider, don’t worry. The Department of Health and Human Services website says, “COVID-19 vaccines are 100% free for every individual living in the United States.”

On Sept. 14, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Bridge Access Program, which will continue to provide free vaccines to those who are uninsured through local health departments and HRSA centers. CDC has also partnered with “more than 20,000 retail pharmacy locations nationwide” to provide free vaccines by modifying the existing ICATT program mentioned above.

The Bridge Access Program will end in December 2024, but until then, you’ll be able to access free COVID-19 vaccines. To use it, go to vaccines.gov, choose which shot you want, and then click the “search” button. On the next page, select the option that says “Bridge Access Program Participant” to show which locations offer no-cost vaccines. 

For more, learn how your blood type could make you more susceptible to COVID and everything to know about the updated COVID-19 boosters.

Correction, Sept. 21, 2023: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the cost of vaccines for people without insurance. It has been updated with information about how people can get free vaccines.