Feds To Begin Distributing Free At-Home COVID Testing Kits

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The scramble for COVID testing amid the omicron surge continued Friday, but some relief may soon be on the way in the form of free self-testing kits delivered to your home courtesy of the federal government.

Starting next Wednesday, you can log onto a new website called covidtests.gov to order four free testing kits per household. The rapid antigen tests will be sent by mail within 7-12 days after ordering. All that’s required is your name and address.

But Dr. Monica Gandhi of UCSF is critical of the timing of the free giveaway and whether it’s too late considering the current Omicron surge.

“We could have used them before, to be in school and in life, but we didn’t have them,” she said. “It’s going to be too late by the time they come.”

Health officials are also trying to better inform the public on when to get tested and what kind of test to take as long lines remain outside clinics and store shelves are empty of self-testing kits.

“We’re seeing this whole thing just kind of stall,” said San Francisco resident William Johnson of the testing dilemma.

If you have COVID, health experts say, a rapid antigen test is recommended towards the end of quarantine instead of a PCR test, which can be too sensitive, detecting trace amounts of virus, and can result in a false positive.

But if you’ve been exposed, the best test is a PCR. If you are symptomatic you can use either an at-home or PCR test.

“After this surge, it’s very likely we won’t be recommending people who don’t have symptoms get tested,” said Gandhi.

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