Free COVID tests from the government are back: How to order them

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In preparation for the fall and winter respiratory virus season 2023, you'll soon be able to order another round of free COVID-19 tests from the government.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced in a press release on Sept. 20, 2023, that its free at-home COVID testing program will return.

How can I order free COVID tests in 2023?

Starting next week, you can order free COVID tests online through Each household can four free rapid, at-home COVID tests to be delivered to their door.

"These tests will detect the currently circulating COVID-19 variants, are intended for use through the end of 2023, and will include clear instructions on how to verify extended expiration dates," the press release from HHS explained.

When will free COVID tests be available in 2023?

You can place an order for free COVID tests from the government starting Sept. 25, 2023. Shipping will begin the week of Oct. 2, 2023, according to the United States Postal Service.

How many free COVID tests can you order from the government in 2023?

As in previous rounds, each household will be able to order four free rapid COVID-19 tests through

Why are free COVID tests coming back in 2023?

This round of tests is thanks to the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response investing $600 million to support U.S. test manufacturers, such as iHealth in California and Princeton BioMeditech in New Jersey. The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response also provides tests to other high-risk communities, such as long-term care facilities, people without health insurance and low-income senior housing.

“The Biden-Harris Administration, in partnership with domestic manufacturers, has made great strides in addressing vulnerabilities in the U.S. supply chain by reducing our reliance on overseas manufacturing,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “These critical investments will strengthen our nation’s production levels of domestic at-home COVID-19 rapid tests and help mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Back in May, the Biden administration announced an end to the COVID-19 public health emergency, which meant a cut in funding to services that provided tools, like free and low-cost tests and large-scale coronavirus data tracking.

The new announcement comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths remain higher than they’ve been in previous weeks, largely thanks to the emergence of new variants. That includes the XBB.1.5 strain that surged over the summer and the EG.5 strain that’s gaining steam now, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When to take a COVID test in 2023

The CDC recommend taking a COVID-19 test when you have symptoms that could indicate a coronavirus infection,such as a runny nose, sore throat or fever. You should also take a test about five days after a known exposure to someone with COVID-19, the CDC says. And testing can be a useful tool before attending an event with high-risk individuals, such as a family holiday gathering.

In addition to the new round of free at-home tests, the public also has access to newly approved COVID-19 vaccines, which have been updated to protect against more recent strains of the virus, like XBB.1.5. And, as experts told previously, wearing a high-quality mask is still an effective option to provide more protection — especially in closed, indoor spaces.

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