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Feds offer Michigan more free COVID tests. Here’s how to get yours.

covid test
The federal government restocked its COVID tests and plans on sending out eight free at-home tests to homes. (Shutterstock)

As COVID cases creep upward again, Michiganders can now order an additional eight free at-home tests, delivered to their mailboxes.

The tests can be ordered at COVIDTests.gov, and brings the total number of free tests available to each household to 16 through this White House  initiative. (People who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support placing an order can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) from 8 a.m. to midnight.)

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Add to that the free tests available through insurers — up to eight per person per month, and many households now could have dozens on hand, said Brian Mills, spokesperson for the Michigan Association of Health Plans, which represents the state's health care systems. 

Mills noted, though, that only tests used to diagnose COVID — in contrast to tests given at work or in sports for surveillance purposes, for example — must be covered by insurance.

In addition to free professional testing sites, The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also makes free at-home tests available through dozens of  libraries and through its school-based MI Backpack program.

The broad availability of free tests is in stark contrast to last year and again in January when Michiganders scrambled to find test kits during virus surges. 

To date, 350 million free tests have been shipped to mailboxes across the states, U.S. territories, and military bases. The White House promised in January to make a billion at-home tests available across the U.S.  

As summer looms, finding free tests and using them when needed should be easy, said Mills at the insurers group.

“There were some glitches at the start with supplies, but most of the plans worked out details with local retailers so they can walk in and get them for free,” he said.

The Biden administration made free masks available, too, earlier this year. 

There are also four free COVID treatments available to people considered at higher risk of developing severe COVID: 

  • Monoclonal antibody treatments, Evusheld and Bebtelovimab, given by professionals, and 
  • Prescription medications that can be taken at home, molnupiravir and Paxlovid. (A searchable list of treatments by community is available here.)

“High-risk” conditions are surprisingly common. In addition to a specific list of chronic diseases and conditions, obesity is considered a risk factor. According to state data, 1 in 3 Michiganders is considered obese.

Many patients aren’t aware of what the risk factors are, said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, director of infection control and prevention at Henry Ford Health.

The therapies are known to be effective only early in the disease — within five days of the onset of symptoms, he said: “That's why it’s important to talk to your doctor if you can get COVID or if you have a positive COVID result.”

As summer approaches, the number of new cases is again going up. Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that everyone in 16 Michigan counties wear masks in indoor public settings. 

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Michigan now has the most counties in the “high” risk category outside of the northeast part of the United States. The change affects over half of the state’s population, with more than five million people living in the affected counties.

According to the CDC, people living in most of southeast Michigan, including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties, should wear masks as that’s where the COVID cases and hospitalizations have been the most stark. 

The recommendation extends to multiple counties in the northwestern corner of the Lower Peninsula, two Upper Peninsula counties (Mackinac and Chippewa) and Calhoun County.

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