Several types of rapid COVID tests are available for free in Philadelphia

The 2022 winter holiday season is well underway, and quite unfortunately, COVID has not gone away.

The Philadelphia Health Department recommends testing before attending any holiday parties or gatherings, particularly if you might be around folks who are older or immunocompromised. Per the department’s guidance, you should stay home if you test positive OR feel sick with COVID-like symptoms.

If you’re looking for an at-home testing kit, which can offer results in 15 to 20 minutes, there are several options — and you don’t have to count on USPS to get them.

You can if you have time: The federal government reopened the opportunity to request free COVID tests through the mail, and you can get four per household delivered to your door. Orders start shipping Monday — so, depending on the speed of the postal service, they may or may not make it ahead of any Christmas gatherings you might be hosting or attending.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to get your hands on them right here in Philadelphia. Keep reading for where to score free or reimbursable at-home rapid test kits ASAP.

Know of other places that aren’t on this list? Tell us: [email protected].

Note: You can always visit a COVID testing site in person, though you’ll have to wait longer for (potentially more accurate) results.

Visit a Health Department resource hub

The city has a handful of sites where you can drop in to pick up two free at-home COVID-19 testing kits, no appointment, insurance, or ID required.

Here’s the list:

  • Mi Salud Wellness Center (200 E. Wyoming Ave.)
  • Bethany Baptist Church (5747 Warrington Ave.)
  • The Shoppes at La Salle (5301 Chew Ave.)
  • Mt. Enon Baptist Church (500 Snyder Ave.)
  • Whitman Plaza (330 W. Oregon Ave.)

You can check the hours for each center’s services here.

Go to a distribution event

At least two Free Library branches will be doing free test pick-up events in the coming days — no insurance or ID required. These are the events:

Buy some from your neighborhood pharmacy, and have your insurance reimburse it (or just request them for free)

This one isn’t available to everyone — it depends on whether you have insurance. The federal government says anyone with health insurance through Medicare, Medicaid, an employer, or the marketplace can get eight at-home tests per month covered by their plan. (If you’re not sure whether your plan qualifies, your best bet is to contact the insurance company directly.)

Depending on where you buy them and what kind of insurance you have, you might have to pay up front, keep your receipt, and file a claim with your insurance to get your money back.

Some pharmacies have a system where they’ll file a claim for you if you provide your insurance information and your insurance is participating: Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid all have websites where you can fill out a request form so that you can pick up your tests at no cost.

Ask the city for some tests in advance of any big gatherings you’re planning for next month

The Department of Public Health asks for applications at least two weeks in advance of an event, so it’s probably too late to register for anything in December.

But if you’re looking to have any gatherings during the New Year/end-of-holidays period, the city runs a program that allows event organizers to request free COVID home tests to distribute to attendees ahead of large gatherings — think festivals, weddings, funerals, and other large events.

Supplies are limited, so the department gives priority to events involving communities with historically less access to healthcare, social occasions attended by a lot of people at high risk for a severe COVID case, and gatherings that come with a high risk of transmission.

You can apply online.

Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Thetelegraphfield. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...