Minnesota sees demand rising for at-home COVID tests

Boxes of rapid covid test
The Minnesota Department of Health received a heightened number of requests for its free self-test program last week. The state program allows households to order four free self-tests, like the boxes of BinaxNOW rapid antigen self tests.
Peter Cox | MPR News 2021

Updated: Sept. 21, 8:45 a.m. | Posted: Sept. 19, 10:50 a.m.

Minnesotans are pulling out the at-home COVID-19 tests, again.

The Minnesota Department of Health is seeing requests rise for its free self-test kits following a continued upward trend in COVID hospitalizations

“Interest in MDH’s at-home test program is currently running very high,” MDH spokesperson Amy Barrett said last week in a statement to MPR News. “We saw an explosion of orders last week and interest continues to be elevated compared to order rates from earlier this summer.”

Minnesotans ordered 78,198 at-home tests in the second week of September, an increase of 89 percent from the week before, according to MDH. In the past two weeks, daily orders for tests increased 90 percent from an average of 542 to 4,374 daily.

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The state program allows households to order four free self-tests while supplies last. People may order a new set of testing kits each month.

For those who may still have unused tests from earlier in the pandemic, MDH recommends checking the expiration date and discourages people from using tests that are expired.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended the expiration date on some tests. To determine if a test’s shelf life was lengthened, check the FDA’s COVID diagnostic tests website to look up a test’s brand and lot number.

Positive results from self-tests are highly reliable, according to the CDC. If a person tests negative, the FDA recommends testing again 48 hours after the initial self-test. A guide is available on the MDH website for what to do when feeling sick or after testing positive for COVID-19. 

In addition to the state program, MDH encourages Minnesotans to receive tests from schools and health providers. Tests can also be purchased at pharmacies and retailers, and MDH recommends individuals with insurance check if their plans cover the cost.