Free at-home COVID tests available from federal government, soon from the state

WASHINGTON — People are ordering free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government and soon they’ll also be able to order them from the state of Washington.

Home tests have been in short supply through much of the omicron surge.

Now they’re becoming more available in stores and insurance companies must cover up to eight tests per person each month.

A U.S. Postal Service portal allowing people to request up to four home tests per address went live Tuesday and the tests are expected to start being shipped at the end of the month.

State officials said Wednesday they will soon provide more tests for free.

“Within a few days people across the state of Washington will be able to order these tests,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, the Department of Health’s deputy secretary for COVID response.

State officials said they will soon announce a website where Washington residents can order one test kit per household.

Each kit will have four to five tests and should arrive within one to three weeks after ordering.

“When we are low or out of stock temporarily you will not be able to order a test, so we ask for your patience and we encourage you to check back if that happens,” Fehrenbach said.

State officials ordered 3.5 million tests but say it will take a while to get them.

They expect to serve 350,000 households the first week.

Dr. Peter Barkett of Kaiser Permanente in Silverdale said home tests can be valuable tools, but he reminds people that it can take about five days for COVID-19 to incubate.

“If you have a high-risk exposure, isolate and by that five-day mark, go ahead and do the test. If you haven’t had a high-risk exposure, wait and watch for symptoms,” Barkett said.

On Wednesday, state officials said COVID-19 cases are still high and undercounted because many people aren’t reporting the results of home tests.

Although several more difficult weeks could be ahead, officials said western Washington might be near the omicron peak.