You can now test yourself for COVID for free at home. That’s because the federal government is rolling out a program to distribute test kits to American households.

The Omicron variant is still driving up COVID numbers around the country and North Dakota is no exception.

At Sanford, doctors say although hospitalizations are low, they are seeing more patients testing positive compared to last year.

“I think that’s mostly due to the number of people that have actually been vaccinated however what’s concerning is since last week, we’ve actually tripled the number of cases that we’re seeing in the hospital,” said Dr. Mubashir Badar Vice President of Clinic at Sanford Health, Bismarck Region.

Presenting milder symptoms, Omicron spreads more quickly according to the CDC. Frequent testing is known to be one way of mitigating the covid spread.

The Federal government now wants to make sure that even those people without insurance are getting tested.

“The advantage of home testing is that it provides a convenient way for people to test so that they can understand their status and then they can make decisions on what they can do and reduce the risks to others,” said Kirby Kruger Director, NDDoH Disease Control Division.

Additionally, private insurers are obliged to cover test kits and every home is eligible for four free test kits directly from the government.

Eight kits per individual every month through private health insurance. So when should you start getting test kits?

“Obviously if you’re symptomatic you want to be tested and maybe at that point you want to consider working with your health care provider. But also I think people may want to test before getting together with other people or just testing on a regular basis if they’re out and about a lot and they know that there is potential for exposure,” Kruger said.

It is advised not to wait until you’re sick before getting a test kit, especially if you’re not getting it from a pharmacy.

Shipping delays could affect the time it takes for you to receive the tests in the mail. When a test comes out positive, you must isolate for five days even if you don’t feel sick.

“That five-day period should start from when their symptom started or if they don’t have symptoms from the day they test and on day five they should evaluate their health,” Kruger said.

At the moment, there is no requirement to report back positive cases from home tests. The priority now is to get as many people testing as often as possible or when it is needed.

If you plan to buy a test kit, Kruger advises that it should be FDA approved and make sure to follow the directions of the manufacturer in order to get true results.

The federal government will distribute more than 50 million tests for free beginning later this month