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How to Get Free COVID Tests in the Mail

Each household has until March 8 to get theirs

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American households that haven’t done so already this winter have a few more days to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government.

The program, which has operated intermittently since 2022, will be suspended on March 8.

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Each household can order four free tests on the website or by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489). If you skipped out on ordering a round of tests in the fall of 2023, you can place a double order for eight free tests.

Are Your Tests Expired?

Has it been a while since you tapped into your supply of COVID-19 tests? You’ll want to check their expiration dates.

You can find the expiration date printed on the outer box or package. Some of these dates, however, have been extended, and you can find the extended expiration dates listed on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.

The news comes at a time when COVID-19 trends are starting to decline after a winter surge, the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows. As of March 1, emergency department visits for COVID-19, flu and RSV are decreasing across the U.S. Still, more than 17,000 Americans are being hospitalized each week with COVID-19, federal data shows.

 And while wastewater activity levels — which reflect infections — remain high, they are starting to trend downward, the CDC says.

Testing is especially important for older adults

Experts say rapid, easy-to-use tests are key to avoiding waves of illness. For one thing, testing for COVID-19 when you experience symptoms can help cut virus transmission.

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“We know how to avoid spreading [COVID-19] to people,” David Montefiori, director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development at Duke University Medical Center, said in a news briefing. “You still want to avoid being in public and being around other people so that they don’t get it.”

Find COVID-19 Vaccines in Your State

AARP's 53 state and territory COVID-19 vaccine guides can help you find vaccines near you and provide the latest answers to common questions about costs, eligibility and availability.

The CDC recently revised its isolation guidelines for COVID-19, recommending that people with the illness stay home and away from others until their symptoms are mild and improving and they’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the help of fever-reducing medicine. Once normal activities resume, additional preventive steps — wearing a mask, for example — are recommended for at least five days to help curb disease spread.

A positive test is also the first step to accessing treatments like Paxlovid that can prevent a mild infection from turning severe. And, says William Schaffner, M.D., of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, “the sooner you initiate the treatment, the greater the benefit to you.”

Older adults are among those at highest risk for a serious case of COVID-19. Hospital admission rates for people 65 and older continue to tower over those for younger age groups, federal data shows, and death rates for those age 75-plus remain the highest.

At-home COVID tests cost around $10 each, or about $20 for a pack of two. The government still offers free testing for people without insurance; you can find testing locations on the CDC’s website.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Sept. 21. It has been updated to reflect new information.

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