COVID-19: Tips to find at-home tests
Starting January 19, Americans will be able to have at-home COVID-19 tests shipped to their homes, for free.
Staff Video, USA TODAY
Some Americans will be able to order free COVID-19 tests on the new federal government website a day early.
While COVIDTests.gov was expected to start accepting orders on Wednesday, an “Order free at-home tests” button was added Tuesday, which brings users to Usps.com/covidtests to order four at-home free tests.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday the site is in its beta phase to allow troubleshooting.
“We can’t guarantee there won’t be a bug or two,” Psaki said, “but the best tech teams across the administration and the postal service are working hard to make this a success.”
USA TODAY tested the site and got a message that “COVID-19 tests will start shipping in late January. USPS will only send one set of 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests to valid residential addresses.”
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USPS COVID test kits
Some users immediately identified at least one problem: Orders made by different people living in the same apartment building but in different units were rejected as duplicate, according to some tweets. Americans are supposed to be able to order up to four kits per address. Once ordered, tests are to be mailed within seven to 12 days.
A credit card isn’t needed to order the free tests and there is no cost, unlike the insurance reimbursement program that started Saturday where many will have to submit receipts in order to get the tests for free.
The tests are part of the Biden administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections.
Free at-home COVID tests and N95 masks promised by Biden
President Biden also announced that 1,000 military medical personnel will begin deploying to help overwhelmed medical facilities.
STAFF VIDEO, USA TODAY
Tips to find at-home COVID tests
If you are trying to find an at-home test now, it may seem like a daunting task.
But it is possible to find testing kits in stores and online with some tools, determination and sometimes luck in the face of ongoing shortages.
Some are using the same tactics to find the tests that are being used to score the hard-to-find PS5 and Xbox Series X video game consoles: Following Twitter and social media accounts that blast when the tests are back in-stock.
There are also apps and websites that alert consumers when new tests arrive.
Eli Coustan, a 14-year-old from the Evanston suburb of Chicago, started his website Findacovidtest.org at the end of December after seeing how difficult it was to find the at-home tests.
“I had created a site to find vaccines earlier in the pandemic and knew that I would be able to use a lot of similar technology to create something to find at-home tests you can order online and get shipped,” Eli told USA TODAY, adding he started ILVaccine.org in February 2021 after he saw how hard it was for his grandparents to get appointments.
Your mileage may vary, but here are tips to help you find at-home COVID tests and other items that are shortage items.
For shopping online, alerts or notifications whether from store apps or third-party sites or apps are one of the best ways to find available inventory when it restocks.
Target has in-stock alerts that you can sign up for with its app. Apps, including Hot Stock, also can send you notifications. The app is free but there’s an option to pay $5.49 to receive notifications for up to 10 products.
Eli says his site automatically updates every five to 10 minutes and site visitors can sign up for text notifications.
The site tracks COVID tests online inventory at Amazon, CVS, Costco, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club and more and you can select the brand of test you’re interested in.
♦ Shopping tip: Once you get an alert, you’ll need to act fast as supplies will go fast and it can take multiple attempts.
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Check in-store test inventory with apps and Google Shopping
Before heading to a brick-and-mortar Target, Walmart or another retailer, you can get a better idea of store inventory by checking store websites or apps. But similar to ordering online, the inventory can quickly change.
Google Shopping also allows shoppers to check in-store inventory from home. Find local stores that carry the products you are looking for from Google Shopping and select the “in stock” filter to see only the nearby stores that have it on their shelves.
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Follow restock Twitter accounts for COVID test updates
According to a Vice story Thursday, several PS5 restock accounts on Twitter have started to post alerts about the COVID-19 test availability.
Here are three Twitter accounts to watch for test updates:
How to get free home COVID tests with insurance
With insurance companies now covering the over-the-counter tests as of Saturday, there will be new motivation to find tests. Many will be free after insurance reimbursement.
Private health plans are required to cover the over-the-counter tests at up to $12 per test. Consumers can either get the testing kits at no cost at participating pharmacies that their plan sets up or submit receipts for reimbursement from the insurance company.
Learn more about how to get insurance reimbursement here.
This story is developing and will be updated.
Contributing: Maureen Groppe and Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY; Associated Press
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