At-home COVID test. (Photo by Phil Walter / Getty Images)
Starting this week, the federal government is once again making at-home COVID-19 tests free for residents nationwide.
The program allows for every U.S. household to receive four free rapid antigen COVID-19 tests sent out by the United States Postal Service. To access your free tests, visit https://special.usps.com/testkits.
The relaunch of the free tests – which were first made available in 2022 but were stopped in early 2023 – is the latest effort by the federal government to slow COVID-19 transmission as fall approaches. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both new hospitalizations and deaths tied to COVID-19 have been on the rise nationally since August.
According to the state dashboard, which is updated weekly by the Department of Health and Human Resources, West Virginia has also seen weekly upticks in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the beginning of August.
Since the pandemic began, COVID-19 cases have tended to increase in the fall and winter months, as people gather indoors more, before falling in the spring and summer.
The COVID-19 at-home tests – which are free for underinsured people as well as those with insurance – will begin being mailed out on Oct. 2. The tests take about 30 minutes to complete and people can report their results, whether positive or negative, here.
The CDC recommends using the tests if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever, runny nose, sore throat or loss of taste or smell. You should use an at-home test at least five days after being in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. The tests can also be used as a precautionary measure before gathering with large groups of people, especially if they may be at high risk for COVID-19 or not up-to-date on recommended vaccines.
A negative at-home test does not necessarily mean you do not have the virus. The CDC recommends taking a second test 48 hours after the first and another 48 hours after that to ensure that the odds of passing on the virus are low.
If an at-home test results in a positive, it is recommended to isolate to limit the chance of spreading the virus on to others. Visit here for more information on the latest CDC recommendations for isolating both with and without symptoms.There are treatments available for those who contract COVID-19 that are shown to lessen their chances of having serious illness, death or hospitalization because of the virus. Enter your zip code here to find a treatment option near you.
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