Where Can You Get a Free COVID-19 Test?

Blank Covid-19 Coronavirus test on stainless steel surface table.
TheCrimsonRibbon / Getty Images/iStockphoto

As people were required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before attending concerts and shows and traveling to different states, or simply wanted to feel safe gathering with family and friends during the holidays, rapid tests were in short supply just prior to Christmas.

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They haven’t gotten much easier to find in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, either, as people prepare for New Year’s Eve outings.

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has left everyone from professionals whose employer (or the state) requires a vaccine or a negative COVID test to parents of children with the sniffles scrambling for rapid tests so they can get back to their lives.

There’s help on the horizon, but it may not come soon enough for people to enjoy the holiday break. President Joe Biden announced that he will be distributing 500 million at-home rapid test kits to people beginning in January.

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People can request their kits through a website, but details regarding how long the kits will take to ship or if there will be a per-person limit are not available.

As part of his plan to stop the spread, Biden also announced that private insurance will cover at-home testing. Covered individuals can purchase a test kit online and be reimbursed.

Right now, it’s hard enough to find any at-home COVID testing kits, much less a free test. But if you know where to look, you can find both PCR tests, which take a few days to receive results, and rapid antigen tests, which can deliver results in minutes.

It’s important to point out that rapid antigen tests may have a higher chance of delivering a false negative, according to Healthline, especially if the virus is only present in small amounts.

Where can you find free COVID tests this week?

Medical Clinics, Urgent Care Facilities and Doctor’s Offices

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) lists a directory of health centers that may offer free COVID testing. Some of these centers offer discounted or free tests, while others offer reimbursement of the testing fee through Medicare or Medicaid.

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Similarly, you may be able to get a test at your local urgent care facility. Some of these centers accept insurance, and others provide free COVID tests to uninsured individuals.

You can also visit your regular primary care physician for a COVID test. It is likely to be covered by insurance, but you may have to pay a co-pay for an office visit.

Libraries and Community Centers

Some libraries, fire departments, community centers, and even shopping malls now provide free COVID testing or have pop-up mobile clinics on-premises for COVID tests, CNBC reports.

Pharmacies and Retail Stores

Pharmacies including Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens and in-store pharmacies at stores like Walmart may offer PCR or rapid COVID testing on-site.

You might also be able to purchase an at-home test kit from any of these retailers, although they have been in short supply throughout the holiday season.

If you can’t find any tests locally, check Amazon and other online retailers. You’ll have to wait for the kit to ship — and it won’t be free — but it can provide peace of mind to keep a kit or two on hand if you can find them.

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Free At-Home Tests to Residents of Six States

CNBC reports that Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Washington are all providing free at-home test kits to residents. The Colorado website offering free tests notes that the rapid at-home tests, which offer results in as little as 15 minutes, may not be accepted as proof of negative results for international travel, school attendance, or employer- or state-mandated testing.

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It’s important to note that at-home or rapid tests may not qualify as negative results for some travel, concerts and shows, or to return to work or school after you exhibited COVID symptoms. However, they are an important precaution for gathering with family and friends, especially if you plan to be in close proximity to those who are unvaccinated or in a high-risk category to have severe symptoms.

Remember, PCR tests tend to be more accurate, while rapid antigen tests may show false negatives.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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