What to do if you can't find Covid-19 tests near you

Mike Peterson

Can't find an at-home Covid test? Here are some good tips.Annie Spratt

Looking for an at-home Covid-19 test can be a frustrating experience, with many stores and retailers sold out of the rapid tests.

Covid-19 “rapid tests” performed at home are generally antigen tests. They’re approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and can help determine whether you have an active Covid infection or not.

These tests can generally provide results within 15 minutes. They also typically come in a two-pack, which can help stamp out the possibility of false negatives.

If you’re having trouble finding an at-home Covid-19 test, here are some tips.

Where to find at-home covid tests

For the most part, at-home Covid-19 rapid tests are readily available at most pharmacies, big box stores, and some grocery stores. Think CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Hy-Vee, and Walmart.

The easiest way to find out if a store has any stock is to go ahead and visit it in person. Many stores that are out of tests will post a sign at their entrance indicating availability.

If you don’t want to venture out of your home, a good tip is to use the store’s smartphone application if they have one. The Walmart app, for example, can let you know whether a specific item is in stock — and even how many particular units are available at any given time.

Get Covid-19 tests if you’re feeling sick

It’s a good idea to stay home if you’re feeling symptomatic, so ordering tests remotely is a solid choice.

To that end, some food delivery services like DoorDash have started stock Covid-19 rapid tests for quick delivery. Log into the DoorDash app and search for Covid-19 tests, but note that test delivery isn’t available in all markets.

Most companies, including test makers like Abbott and Everlywell, have options for the delivery of Covid-19 tests straight to your door. Those with a bit more time to spare can also order Covid-19 tests from a retailer or manufacturer directly. These won’t be delivered as quickly as DoorDash, but online ordering is a solid option if you need to stock up in advance.

If you want to get Covid-19 tests, but you’re short on money, you can order four free tests from the U.S. government at this link. These tests will be delivered via U.S. Postal Service and could take a few days to arrive.

Additional Tips

If you’re feeling unwell after potential Covid-19 exposure, you should follow the CDC’s current masking and isolation guidelines — even if your rapid tests come back negative.

You can also consider booking a PCR test for additional peace of mind. Healthcare practitioners generally perform these tests and analyze the samples in a lab. They’re much more sensitive to Covid-19, picking up traces of the virus that other testing methods could miss.

With tests in short supply, you’ll want to make sure to get it right. Once you obtain a Covid-19 test, it’s critical to closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Performing an at-home rapid test incorrectly can raise the chances of a false positive or false negative test.

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Mike Peterson is a journalist, editor, and yoga teacher based in North San Diego County. He's a fan of indie bookstores, local craft beers, and excellent tacos.

San Diego, CA

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