COVID-19 test order site goes live, powered by the U.S. Postal Service

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

The free COVID-19 tests for American households went live a day earlier than expected and orders are being processed through the U.S. Postal Service website.

The federal government’s official website, COVIDTests.gov, went live Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, with a link to order pointing at usps.com/covidtests, which, in turn, redirects to special.usps.com/testkits.

President Joe Biden had announced Jan. 18, 2022, as the go live date, so it appears the government may have beat its deadline (which may have been the plan all along).

Ordering is a fairly simple process — with just 10 fields, eight of which are required and two of which can be filled with information already entered automatically.

Since the tests are free, the site does not collect any payment information, but it still uses ecommerce terminology such as a green “Check out now” button.

It’s worth noting that this terminology could be a bit confusing; since it could be read to imply that payment is required. In reality, clicking the button just takes users to an order confirmation page, assuming all of the data in the form is validated correctly.

The USPS website features full fledged ecommerce capabilities for customers to order stamps, shipping supplies and services, though that is located on the store.usps.com subdomain.

Some orders on the existing USPS website also don’t require payment — such as if you order Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express packaging that’s provided free of charge when purchasing the appropriate postage. In these cases, the checkout process is similar to the “checkout” for the free COVID-19 tests.

If, however, an order includes stamps, postage or paid services, the website collects payment information for the appropriate amount. Customers can also mix free shipping supplies with paid products and services in the same order and the system adjusts to only bill for the paid items.

When the COVIDTests.gov site was announced, there was some speculation as to what platform the government would pick to handle the orders — especially given the potential volume of demand that could likely easily crash a site that wasn’t properly prepared for the volume of traffic.

By going with the USPS, which already has ecommerce functionality, the government is not only keeping things “in the family” so to speak (though the USPS is an independent government agency) that also has a significant IT backbone and online ordering system already in place — including one set up to process free “orders.”

Government officials are already warning people of fake or scam COVID-19 testing sites claiming to offer free tests but that collect sensitive personal information or even payment information (despite the tests being free).

Residents are encouraged to only order via the COVIDTests.gov address and clicking on the link provided (it’s possible this could change in the future). Clicking links in emails or social media postings could also lead to scam sites and, if done, look carefully to make sure only “https://www.covidtests.gov/” is in the address bar (especially double check for the “.gov” part).

Coronavirus vaccines and boosters are highly recommended by multiple public health officials and experts. COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have undergone extensive testing and monitoring to ensure their safety. Scientific research has shown the vaccines and boosters to be very safe and highly effective in decreasing the likelihood of contracting the illness and, if one does become sick, symptoms are less severe and less likely to lead to hospitalization or death. For more information about COVID-19 and coronavirus, visit the CDC website. You can locate a free vaccination site or clinic near you at Vaccines.gov. As with any medical decision, you should always discuss your options with your doctor.