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Here’s how NJ residents can get a free PCR at-home COVID test kit

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In an effort to stem the rapid spread of COVID-19 this winter, the state Department of Health is offering free test kits shipped to residents with the promise of results within a few days. 

This PCR test comes as the number of positive cases is skyrocketing and at-home test kits are in high demand due to a rush prior to holiday travel, Christmas gatherings and New Year’s parties. Many pharmacies are sold out of test kits.

“This new program increases the availability and accessibility of testing, particularly for those who may not be able to get to a testing site,” Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. 

Here’s what you need to know: 

What kind of at-home COVID test is this?

This is a PCR test developed by a New York-based Vault Health that uses a saliva sample. It is tested in a laboratory to see if you had COVID at the time you gave the sample.

How do I get a free COVID test kit?

 Log onto https://learn.vaulthealth.com/nj/ and fill out a form. 

Hundreds of thousands have already been ordered.

How fast does the test get to you?

Vault promises to have one in your mailbox within a few days. For instance, tests ordered over the weekend are due to arrive no later than Tuesday. 

One that was ordered on Sunday evening did not arrive until Friday on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Vault has said that there is a delay in turnaround time due to the volume of tests it’s receiving every day. 

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What happens when I get a test kit?

Vault cautions that this is not a “do-it-yourself” at-home test. 

The company requires you to see a “test supervisor” via a Zoom call before spitting into a test tube provided in the kit. Wait times are about 15 minutes although they are longest around noon, according to the company. 

You must not eat, drink, smoke, or chew anything for 30 minutes before spitting into the tube.

Ship the sample back to Vault using a prepaid UPS package. 

How long before I get my test results?

It depends on how fast the package arrives back at the lab. 

Vault says it takes the lab 24 to 48 hours to process the results, which are emailed to participants.  

What’s the state of COVID in New Jersey?

Hospitalizations have quadrupled in one month from early December to early January, and intensive care admissions and ventilator use have each tripled in that time. Models predict hospitalizations will peak between 6,000 and 9,000 in January. 

New Jersey’s testing sites have been strained for weeks before, during and after the holidays. The state continues to see long lines at clinics, few rapid tests available on pharmacy shelves and longer turnaround times for results.

Who’s paying for this?

The test is free but state officials said it is federally funded.

The site wants to charge me $90. What’s going on?

The site charges a $90 fee if you choose the “travel” option. Decline this option and the test kit is free.

Scott Fallon has covered the COVID-19 pandemic since its onset in March 2020. To get unlimited access to the latest news about the pandemic’s impact on New Jersey,  please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @newsfallon 

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