Coronavirus tests: How can you get an at-home COVID-19 test?

As the omicron variant spreads quickly, more people are asking for rapid at-home tests, but few are finding them easily.

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President Joe Biden has vowed to make millions of at-home tests available soon, but many Americans are finding it difficult to get a test at their local drugstore or order one online.

“I know you’re tired, and I know you’re frustrated. We all want this to be over. But we’re still in it,” Biden said. “We also have more tools than we had before. We’re ready, we’ll get through this.”

Biden urged Americans to stay safe by testing themselves before attending crowded events. Part of that protection would include self-testing before being around a group of people.

Free at-home tests marks a major shift for Biden, who earlier had called for many Americans to purchase the hard-to-find tests on their own and then seek reimbursement from health insurance. For the first time, the U.S. government will send free COVID-19 tests directly to Americans, after more than a year of urging by public health experts.

Here’s what we know now about at-home tests.

Are at-home tests able to detect the omicron variant?

The Food and Drug Administration has said that preliminary tests show that the Abbott BinaxNOW and Quidel QuickVue antigen tests, “are able to detect the omicron variant with similar performance as with other variants.”

The FDA noted that tests were ongoing.

The omicron variant accounted for 73 percent of new coronavirus cases in the United States between Dec. 12 and 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At-home tests generally use a nasal swab to gather material to test.

Abbott and Quidel’s tests show two lines for a positive test and one line for a negative. You get Ellume’s rapid test results by using its app.

Where can I find an at-home test?

Test kits are being sold in local pharmacies and online. However, with the surge of the omicron virus, tests can be in short supply.

According to USA Today, some stores have limited the number of test kits a person can purchase. Walgreens allows a person to buy four kits at one time. CVS is limiting buyers to six tests.

On Amazon, you can get 10 kits at a time.

Most of the kits include two tests.

Some tests sold at Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and Kroger are listed as either “out of stock,” out of stock online or only available for purchase in-store.

DoorDash, the food-delivery company, recently announced it now delivers at-home tests on behalf of Vault Health and Everlywell in 12 cities with more to come. The Vault kit costs $119. The Everlywell kit costs $109. Both kits are available for same-day delivery.

Are they expensive? Is the government going to send us one for free?

Most at-home kits contain two tests and cost between $25-$30.

President Joe Biden announced last week that 500 million free rapid tests will be available to be sent to American homes starting in January.

A website will be set up for Americans to order the test, but the site is not ready yet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is distributing free tests at a handful of U.S. airports.

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Washington, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio and Colorado are offering free home tests. Residents can order them through their state’s website.

Additionally, some larger cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Miami, are offering free tests at various locations.

What does the CDC say about the COVID-19 tests?

· Self-tests can be taken at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results.

· You can use self-tests, regardless of vaccination status, or whether or not you have symptoms.

· Follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions for performing the test.

· If you test positive, you should isolate and inform your health care provider, as well as any close contacts.

· Consider using a self-test before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household.

· A positive self-test result means that the test detected the virus, and you are very likely to have an infection and should stay home or isolate for 10 days, wear a mask if you could have contact with others, and avoid indoor gatherings to reduce the risk of spreading disease to someone else.

· A negative self-test result means that the test did not detect the virus and you may not have an infection, but it does not rule out infection. Repeating the test within a few days, with at least 24 hours between tests, will increase the confidence that you are not infected.

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