In Short

Want a free Covid-19 test delivered? Households can sign up now

By: - January 18, 2022 1:25 pm
Abbott BinaxNOW

The Biden administration is buying 1 million rapid antigen Covid-19 tests, with half of those available to the public through a website that went live on Tuesday. (Laura Olson/States Newsroom)

UPDATED: Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022 at 2:46 p.m.

The Biden administration’s effort to distribute free Covid-19 tests nationwide was supposed to start Wednesday. Instead, the government quietly began taking orders on Tuesday.

The administration said that every very household can obtain four free rapid antigen tests by going to and clicking through to a U.S. Postal Service site signup sheet and filling out the short form, which only asks for a name and address.

The tests are limited to four per household. Not all residents can get them, at least for the moment. Chas Hundley, publisher and editor of the Banks Post and Gales Creek Journal, told the Capital Chronicle that his address was rejected by the site. It said that his address was a business — not a residence.  He uses the same address where he and his wife live in rural Washington County near the Tillamook County border for his home and his businesses, which include a convenience store and community hall. 

He said some of his neighbors who don’t have a current business at their address were able to sign up.

“It only seems to be affecting rural commercial properties with active businesses there,” Hundley said. “It’s a very small group of people.”

Many small farmers also use their home address for their farm.

Message on no free tests to businesses
Addresses listed as a business by the U.S. Postal Service are being rejected by the federal website that went live on Tuesday, offering four free rapid antigen tests to households.

Every household is eligible for the free tests, but will only receive four, at least to start. The shipments will go out in seven to 10 days, according to a statement last week by the White House.

The move attempts to address a scarcity of rapid tests in Oregon and elsewhere. On Dec. 28, the Oregon Health Authority bought 12 million Covid rapid tests from iHealth Labs Inc., in Sunnyvale, California. They were supposed to be delivered on Jan. 7, but so far about 4 million have arrived. Oregon officials said they’re expecting to receive the rest of the tests by the end of January. 

An official at the company, Mingwei Guan, told the Capital Chronicle that the holdup was caused by delays of flights from China, where the tests are manufactured, and by a shortage of workers at its California warehouse.

The state is distributing the tests to hospitals and to clinics that treat low-income patients – not directly to the public.

Rapid antigen tests, which usually involve swabbing the inside of both nostrils and then putting the swab into a solution to look for indications of Covid-19, are not as accurate as molecular tests, so-called PCR tests. Rapid tests often don’t pick up an infection the first few days after exposure when people can be the most infectious, but they’re a quick and easy way from home to determine a Covid status. They usually only take about 10 to 15 minutes to get results. Federal health officials advised people to test themselves or others when they start to have symptoms, at least five days after coming into contact with someone with Covid-19 or when gathering indoors with people who are at risk of severe disease or unvaccinated. Anyone who tests positive should stay away from others for at least five days, according to the latest guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.