US Government Distributes Free COVID-19 Tests to All Residents

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Image used with permission from Medakit Ltd on Unsplash

Accessible testing. The Biden administration recently announced that they are allowing every American household to order up to four free at-home COVID-19 testing kits. These kits are available to order at covidtests.gov.

Shree Delwadia and Tisha Kaur

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed into action a plan in which all households in the country could receive four free COVID-19 tests.

The goal of this plan is to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases across the nation, as well as slow the transmission of the virus amongst the population. Each residential address can sign up to receive up to four at-home testing kits for their family. The United States Postal Service will begin to process and ship orders near the end of January. 

Individuals can click here to purchase their free at-home tests.

While orders will not begin to ship until the end of January, it’s important to request them as soon as possible in order to ensure individuals will receive tests when needed. The at-home COVID-19 tests are rapid-antigen tests, not PCR tests, and will provide results in half an hour.

While both PCR and antigen tests are diagnostic, they still have distinct differences in their testing techniques. A PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test uses a nasal or throat swab to detect the virus’s RNA. PCR tests are sent to a laboratory to be thoroughly analyzed, and therefore might take longer to provide results, but most medical experts consider them more accurate than rapid antigen tests.  Rapid-antigen tests detect the specific proteins located on the Covid-19 virus. These results come back very quickly, usually within a few hours. 

These free testing kits allow for individuals to test anywhere at any time regardless of other medical history or background. Health officials suggest taking the at-home test if you are having COVID-19 symptoms, if you were exposed to someone who tested positive, or if you are going to hang out with a group of individuals in crowded settings.

These tests are a perfect opportunity to not only check your own symptoms but also protect others if you are planning on going out to meet individuals who may be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. 

The countries that have been giving free tests have had lower case loads because surveillance is better. That’s the biggest thing: making sure you have surveillance to know how many cases you have and how its spreading. With the availability of tests, we can see more cases, we can see the reality better, and what is actually happening.”

— Ms. Kelsey Fusco, SFHS Epidemiology teacher

Free COVID-19 testing is one of the stepping stones to building a safer world, as this action has nearly doubled the number of free tests distributed in community centers from 25 to 50 million.

“I think [the tests] will help, especially to help keep kids safe and in school,” shares Ms. Fusco, SFHS Epidemiology teacher. 

Nurse Kelly, SFHS School Nurse, also shares her perspective on this upcoming distribution of free tests.

“This is the first time that the government has distributed any sort of personal use testing for the disease,” notes Nurse Kelly. “If this program is successful, it may change the approach to future disease outbreaks. I wonder though, with the possibility of so many unreported positive tests, we might now see the full picture of how wide and how fast the virus is spreading.”

While at-home testing kits are now available, it’s important to remember that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a variety of other steps to keep yourself and others protected. Along with testing when needed, individuals are encouraged to wear masks, social distance in close spaces, wash their hands frequently, and receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have not done so already.

With more preventative measures like this, we are inching our way to a safer, more normal, COVID-free world.