Free COVID-19 tests: How to get them in Santa Monica

SANTA MONICA, CA — Households in Santa Monica can order up to four free antigen coronavirus rapid tests starting Wednesday to help alleviate a statewide shortage of testing with the launch of a federal government website — covidtests.gov.

Although the White House said orders would begin Wednesday, several people were able to place orders Tuesday. The site is “currently in beta” and operating “at a limited capacity prior to its official launch,” The Associated Press reported. The official start is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

The federal government bought 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests in December in response to criticism of a low inventory of home tests and long lines at test sites. Last week, President Joe Biden announced he was ordering an additional 500 million tests, bringing the total to 1 billion.

Americans only need to provide their names and addresses — no insurance or credit card is required — to receive the COVID-19 tests. There are no shipping costs.

Santa Monica residents need to plan ahead to have rapid COVID-19 tests on hand before they need them — whether as part of test-to-stay protocols in schools and workplaces or after possible exposure to COVID-19. 19 Orders ship in seven to 12 days, according to senior officials in the Biden administration who briefed reporters on Friday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends home testing for people who develop COVID-19 symptoms five days after possible exposure. These symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing, and muscle aches.

“If you get together with family, if you go to a gathering where people are immunocompromised or elderly, or where you have people who may not be vaccinated or may be poorly protected from a vaccine, this could be an opportunity that you want to test,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, last week.

The administration said it has been working closely with the US Postal Service, which reports one to three-day delivery of first-class mail in the continental United States, to set up the site and ensure the tests can be delivered quickly.

The federal website isn’t the only way to get rapid antigen coronavirus tests. A government regulation requiring private insurance companies to cover at-home testing went into effect on Saturday, although most companies require prepayment at pharmacies and online retailers.

The cost of purchasing and distributing the first round of testing is estimated at $4 billion.

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