Free Take-Home COVID-19 Test Kits Available Locally

posted on Friday, July 16, 2021 in COVID-19

Test Iowa, the state’s free COVID-19 testing program, has transitioned from offering COVID-19 testing at drive-through locations regionally to providing Iowans access to free, self-administered test kits, which are sent into Iowa’s State Hygienic Lab for results. Locally, take-home testing kits will be available to pick up in Spencer Hospital’s emergency department.  

“The free home testing kits are an easy and affordable way for the Iowa Department of Public Health to continue providing COVID-19 testing for Iowans in need, especially those experiencing symptoms so they can seek treatment options. Tests are also convenient for someone who is required to have a COVID-19 test for travel or other events,” explained Colette Rossiter, Clay County Public Health Coordinator.

Rossiter explained that each test kit includes step-by-step instructions. Also, once received, the person taking the test needs to go to the Test Iowa website to register their kit in order to receive test results.

“The instructions are detailed, yet sometimes human nature is to not read all the directions first. We encourage people to first read all the instructions, before executing any of the steps,” Rossiter cautioned.

Once all the steps are completed, the test kit should be dropped off at a local UPS site or UPS letterbox to be transported to the state hygienic lab.  The person who registered the kit will receive an email with instructions to log on to a patient portal where the results will be listed. Once the specimen arrives at the state lab in Iowa City, it will be processed within 24 hours. Depending on transport time to Iowa City, plan on a 72-hour turn-around time.

Test Iowa at-home is a partnership between the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the State Hygienic Lab (SHL). The self-collected saliva test kits are authorized by the FDA under an emergency use authorization. More information can be found on the Test Iowa website: 

FAQs for Patients from the Iowa Department of Public Health

Are there still Test Iowa drive-thru sites and clinics?

As announced, all Test Iowa drive-thru test sites and clinic locations ended operations on July 16, 2021. The Iowa Department of Public Health and State Hygienic Lab have made at-home test kits available to Iowa residents free of charge following Test Iowa drive-thru test sites and clinic closures.

How can I get a COVID-19 test?

You can talk with your health care provider about your testing options. At-home test kits are available at no cost through the Test Iowa at-home program. To receive a free at home test kit, request one at After requesting a test kit, it will be sent to you. You can also pick one up from a nearby location. Home test kits can also be purchased at various retailers.

How do I take the at-home test?

Refer to the instructions included in the at-home test kit and instruction video.

What is the cost for at-home testing?

Test Iowa at-home kits are free.

Who can receive a free at-home COVID-19 test?

 Anyone who lives in Iowa is eligible to receive an at-home test kit at no cost.

When will I get my results?

Results should be sent to you via the email you provided when you activated your kit within 24 hours after the sample is received by the laboratory. If you have not received your results within that time frame, please check your "Spam" or "Junk" folders. If you have checked your email folders and do not have your results, please call 1-833-286- 8378.

How will I get my results?

You will receive an email notifying you that your results are available on the patient portal. This email will be sent to the email you provided when you activated your test kit. You will need the access code previously provided to you to access your results on the patient portal.

How long do I have to send my test in?

After collection, the sample will need to be shipped or picked up as soon as possible.

Can I send my test back on the weekend?

Yes, you may send your test back over the weekend. Check the hours of the UPS dropoff location prior to sending your test back to ensure it is open.

What happens if I am positive for COVID-19?

If you have a positive test result, you should contact your healthcare provider. Additional resources on how to take care of yourself if you test positive for COVID-19 can be found on the CDC website. If you experience difficult breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, mental confusion, or bluish lips or face, you should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital or clinic immediately.

What should I do if my test kit is damaged when I receive it?

If your test kit is damaged, please call 1-833-286-8378.

What should I do if I forgot to activate my test kit or complete the test kit ID label before sending in my test?

Test kits sent back without being activated and without the test kit ID label will not be accepted. Please call 1-833-286-8378 if you have any questions.

I ordered a test kit but never received it. Who should I contact?

Test kits should be received from UPS within 2 business days after placing the order. If you have not received your requested test kit within 2 business days, please call 1-833-286-8378.

Are my test results and personal information protected?

Yes, your test results and personal information are confidential and protected.

What happens after I have shipped my test kit back?

Your test kit should be received at the laboratory within 3 days of sending it back. Once received, the test will be processed. Your test results will be communicated to you through the email you provided when you activated your test kit. You should receive your test results about 24 hours after the laboratory receives your test.

What if I ordered or picked up a test kit and start to feel better?

If you had symptoms or have been around someone who has/had COVID-19, you should still complete the test, even if you are feeling better, and follow appropriate isolation or quarantine recommendations.

How can I order an at-home test kit if I do not have internet?

Currently, you can only order an at-home test kit from from a computer, tablet or smartphone. If you have a cellular data plan for a tablet or smartphone, you should be able to order a test kit from either device. If you do not have internet service or a device with a data plan, you can call 1-833-286-8378 for assistance.

I have received a test kit. Can I give this test kit to someone else?

Yes. The test kit must be activated with the information for the person providing the sample.

How do I prepare for the test?Do not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum for 30 minutes before giving your saliva sample.

Is the test FDA approved?

The self-sample collection device has not been FDA cleared or approved. It has been authorized by the FDA under an emergency use authorization.

Can the test kit be used for children?

There are no age restrictions.

Can I request a test kit for someone else?

Yes. Test kits may be requested on behalf of other people. Information about the person submitting the sample is provided at the time the test kit is activated.

Can I track my test kit when it's on the way to me or when I send it back?

Yes, keep the bottom half of the UPS label (i.e. "customer receipt"). A tracking number is in the bottom right-hand corner and can be used to track your test kit when sending it back.

Do people who want to pick-up a test kit at a pick up site need to pre-register or can they just show up and get one?

Individuals who want to pick up a test kit will not need to pre-register and will be able to arrive when the pick-up site is open to obtain a test kit. Individuals picking up a test kit are encouraged to check with the pick-up site to determine hours of test kit availability.

Do we hand test kits out to anyone or do they have to be referred from the State Hygienic Lab?

Any individual living in Iowa is able to pick-up a test kit or request a test kit.

Are the instructions offered in non-English languages?

Instructions provided in the test kit are in English and Spanish. Instructions in other languages will be provided at

Will this test work for travel requirements?

Yes, it is intended to, however, requirements are not uniform and change. Patients should check the travel destination country/state websites for current requirements.

Will there be a UPS label on the kit?

A return shipping label will be provided in the kit.