The Postal Service is distributing free COVID-19 tests again

Photo (c) Tang Ming Tung - Getty Images

If you still have tests on the shelf, it pays to check the expiration date

COVID-19 may have disappeared from the headlines but the coronavirus hasn’t gone away. In fact, with the start of cold weather and holiday gatherings, it appears to be making a comeback.

That may be one of the reasons that the U.S. Postal Service is resuming free delivery of COVID-19 tests to Americans who request them. 

Residential households can order one set of four free at-home tests from Here’s the order form.

Orders of free tests are limited to one order per residential address. Each order includes four individual rapid antigen COVID-19 tests. You can order now but shipping will begin the week of December 19, 2022.

If you have COVID-19 tests sitting on the shelf it may be wise to check the expiration date. The tests don’t last forever.

Wide-ranging expiration dates

According to the FDA, COVID-19 test kits have a shelf life that can range from just four months to as many as 26 months. The FDA lists each test and its shelf life here.

If the expiration date column says that the shelf-life is "extended," there is a link to "updated expiration dates" where you can find a list of the original expiration dates and the new expiration dates. If the expiration date column does not say the shelf-life is extended, that means the expiration date on the box label of your test is still correct. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have been rising since early November. So have deaths.

The CDC says the U.S. recorded nearly 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in the first week of December, making it the most deadly week in the last few months.

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