Holiday gatherings, travel, and the Omicron surge are creating a rabid demand for Covid-19 tests—and a national shortage of at-home test kits. Need a last-minute test this week in the DC-area? The good news: You still have options, though they may involve waiting in a long line.
Interested in helping? Serve DC is looking for volunteers to prepare at-home test kits for DC residents, Monday, December 20 through Wednesday, December 22.
The on-demand, public-health service offers free Covid-19 PCR tests at multiple sites throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia—and is currently showing availability at a variety of brick-and-mortar and mobile sites in the area (no insurance required, though bring an ID and insurance information if applicable). Results for the self-collected swab tests are typically delivered from the lab within 1-2 days, though there may be delays due to the holidays or weather. Look for sites and appointments here.
The LA-based healthcare provider runs a ton of local clinics—including outdoor and drive-through options—in DC (Georgetown and Capitol Hill); Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington, Sterling, Tysons); and Maryland (Bethesda, Germantown, Silver Spring, Wheaton). Costs vary with insurance (free to $75 for a rushed 24-hour PCR priority test) and without (starting at $95 for an antigen test). There are also home concierge services. Check online for appointments—they’re currently showing availability in our area for the holiday week.
At-Home Tests and Kits
No surprise, self-test kits such as BinaxNow and BD Veritor are the toilet paper of March 2020—hard to find. Pharmacies including Walgreens, CVS, and RiteAid all carry them, though many are showing the kits as sold-out both online and in stores (still, it’s worth checking as some shops are restocking). You can also buy tests online from Walmart and Amazon, though delivery times are mostly estimated post-holiday. Some DC residents have lucked into in-stock testing kits at small local drugstores such as Kalorama Pharmacy.
You can also purchase home test kits—some without out-of-pocket costs—from Pixel by LabCorp, which estimates delivery of results within 1-2 days of being processed by the lab (pickup and drop-off schedules vary by FedEx).
In DC, tele-health start-up Ready offers at-home, on-demand Covid testing (check appointments online or call 202-602-0814). Ready is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, and serves all eight wards in DC. The service is currently offering rapid antigen testing only, with results in 15 minutes.
Free Self-Tests at Libraries
A number of public library systems in DC, Maryland, and Virginia launched free, rapid Covid-19 tests. In Virginia, nearly 40 library systems including Fairfax County, Alexandria, and Arlington Public Libraries offer free self-test kits to be completed onsite (no library card or ID required). In Maryland, Prince George’s County Public Libraries offer a limited supply of free BinaxNow grab-and-go kits that are replenished bi-weekly (see more info here). DC Public Libraries have offered self-tests kits since the spring. Mayor Muriel Bowser just announced that eight DC libraries across all wards will offer self-test kits (limit two per person; proof of DC residence required).
Free Walk-Up Testing Sites
Here’s a list of free walk-up public testing sites in DC for the holiday week, December 20 through December 26, including Farragut Square, fire stations, and Douglass Community Center. In Montgomery County, here’s a list of walk-in testing sites for the week of December 20. You can search for sites in Northern Virginia here.
CVS Minute Clinic and District Urgent Care are both offering Covid-19 testing. AllCare, offers drive-through testing services in Ellicott City, Alexandria, DC, Bethesda, Falls Church, Lorton, and Vienna after a telemedicine video visit with an AllCare doctor.
If you’re willing to take on the expense, a number of pharmacies and services offer tests to the public, for a price. In Virginia, places including Preston’s Pharmacy in Arlington and McLean Pharmacy offer Covid-19 tests—both rapid and expedited for travel use—at varying costs (think $40 to $200). Doctors to You offers concierge home medical services, though it isn’t cheap—Covid-19 tests run around $300, plus the cost of a house call (no insurance accepted).