The Government Is Giving Away Free At-Home Covid-19 Tests

Common Problems When Using the Site

Even though the government had two years to figure out this plan, it is not without bugs. Hopefully, you’ll be able to complete your request in minutes. But here are a few common problems we’ve seen.

Do you live in an apartment or a live-work space?

Apartment dwellers may find that their multi-unit building has been classified as a single house. If anyone in the entire building has placed an order for tests, the system thinks they’re requesting more than the allotted four per household. 

The USPS addresses this issue by asking anyone who has experienced it to file a service request here. Representative Jerry Nadler of Manhattan has also tweeted about the issue. Anecdotally, Nadler tweeted that some people have been able to resolve the issue by making sure everything is correct using the USPS’s zip code search. You can also try entering your apartment’s unit number in the same box as your address instead of the Apt / Suite / Other box. However, several members of the WIRED staff were unable to request tests using any of these methods. 

The same issue is happening for those who reside in a live-work building, which is common in California’s Bay Area. The system sees these addresses as businesses and won’t ship tests there. You’ll also need to file a service request.

Do you have more than four people in your house?

Right now, each household can get only four tests, no matter how many people live there, and it’s unclear if we’ll be able to request more in the future. If you’ve used all four tests or you just have a bigger family, you’re out of luck when it comes to a free at-home kit. You can purchase more if you need them.

Do you not speak English, Spanish, or Chinese?

The website only has three language options right now, English, Spanish, and Chinese. It’s not clear if the helpline listed above (1-800-232-0233) will be able to help people who don’t speak one of those three.

Are you homeless?

The site states that these tests are sent to valid residential addresses and residential PO boxes only. One of the FAQs asks if tests can be picked up at another location or held at the USPS, and the answer is unfortunately no. If you’re currently homeless, reach out to your local health social service agency to find a free test.

President Biden stated that 400 million N95 masks will also be available for free—starting next week—for pickup at pharmacies and community health centers. There’s no word on exactly what date we can expect them to arrive. Until then, we have a few guides for face mask recommendations that should help keep you protected.

If you’ve consistently followed CDC recommendations, you know they have changed several times as we have navigated the virus. N95s are the best bet to keep you and those around you safe—we have more on the types of masks and their effectiveness in the N95 guide—but as the CDC says, any mask is better than no mask.

Vaccinations and Boosters

Being vaccinated won’t stop you from getting Covid-19, but it could alleviate the worst and most dangerous symptoms. We recommend getting vaccinated if you haven’t already, and if you have, get a booster shot. Vaccines.gov should help you find somewhere near you with vaccines available—a search of my zip code showed 50 places within six miles.

More From WIRED on Covid-19