As COVID cases begin to creep upward, Michiganders will once again be able to get free COVID tests from the federal government — up to four per household.
There were 655 patients with COVID in Michigan hospitals as of Friday, the highest since 678 patients on April 3. April. While an imperfect measure, cases have climbed too — up about 30 percent over last week to about 450 new cases each day.
Those state trends mirror national data even as at least one survey found that concern over COVID dwindles as the nation heads into its fourth holiday season with the virus. Half of adults say they do not plan to get the latest vaccine which became publicly available nearly two months ago, according to KFF, a San Francisco-based health research nonprofit.
On Monday, the Biden administration opened a second round of free tests to Americans. Two months ago, it announced it would reopen the free at-home tests program launched for the first time in 2022 as the omicron variant packed hospitals across the country.
How do I get new tests?
Residents can log onto COVID.gov/tests to order their tests. Households that didn’t already order a batch from the first round of tests can receive eight tests.
Additionally, free home tests are available at some Michigan libraries, although supplies are limited and some libraries may no longer participate.
For people who prefer to be tested in a clinic, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services provides a list of free test sites across the state including MDHHS Community Sites. Michiganders can also call the state’s COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 for help finding free test sites as well. Some sites may be closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.
The CDC also provides a searchable list of free testing sites across the country.
Keep in mind that at-home antigen tests, which detect proteins called antigens from the virus, generally aren’t as reliable as molecular tests, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and other nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) tests, which may be done at a doctor’s office or testing site.
When should I use them?
The CDC recommends that people with COVID symptoms test immediately after symptom onset then again 48 hours later if the first at-home test is negative. People with symptoms should also consider checking with a doctor about testing for other viral infections.
For those who have been exposed to the virus, the CDC recommends testing three times: once at least 5 full days after their exposure, a second time 48 hours later, and a third time 48 hours after that, if the first two tests are negative.
What if I’m positive?
If you tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms, experts say you should stay home and isolate for five days — whatever your vaccination status.
What if they get cold?
Tests may not be reliable if they are cold, so it’s important to bring them in from mailboxes as soon as possible. If a test has been delivered to you in below freezing temperatures, allow it to remain unopened at room temperature for at least two hours.
Once at room temperature, the test can be performed according to the instructions. For more information visit this webpage.
What about my old tests?
Typically, tests should be discarded after the expiration dates printed on the packaging.
However, expiration dates have been extended on many nearly-forgotten tests in hallway closets and bathroom cupboards, so Michiganders should check this list of tests before discarding them.
Where can I get a COVID vaccine?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended newly formulated COVID vaccines for children 6 months and older and adults.
Michiganders can find a list of vaccine providers, searchable by zip code, at www.vaccines.gov. Among the providers are family doctors, clinics, and major pharmacy chains, including Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, Kroger, and Meijer.
Bridge writer Mike Wilkinson contributed to this report.