We Got Ya, North Carolina. Here’s How to Get Free COVID Tests and Masks

Workers at a Walgreens location in Durham, N.C. assist persons with tests for COVID-19 at a temporary drive-thru site where patients administer their own tests in May 2020. To alleviate long testing lines today amid the Omicron surge, health officials are giving away tests and masks. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

By Michael McElroy

January 20, 2022

Hoping to ease long lines, the Biden administration and state leaders are dishing out freebies.

Federal and state officials have announced recent moves to help alleviate long lines at NC’s COVID testing sites and widespread shortages of rapid, at-home tests.

Omicron may have peaked in some states, but not in North Carolina. 

The state is seeing 20,000 to 30,000 positive tests a day, far higher than the surges caused by the original or delta strains. Hospitalizations continue to set daily records. And as of this week, more than 20,000 North Carolinians have died from COVID-19.

So no one can breathe easy just yet.

With testing sometimes hard to come by, North Carolina officials have increased the number of testing sites across the state, including no-cost, community and pop-up sites. The weekend snow and ice could complicate things, but to find a testing site near you, visit the state’s search function here.

To find a calendar of free community testing sites, click here: You can search the database by county, city date and zip code. 

Here’s what else you need to know about omicron this week.

Free at Home Tests

Long lines at testing sites across the country and widespread shortages of rapid, at-home tests have not helped. But federal and state officials have announced recent moves to help. 

The Biden administration launched a website this week where people can order four free at home rapid COVID tests through the postal service. The process is simple and fast.

How to get your free tests:

First visit the site,  https://www.covidtests.gov/ or go here.

  • Click on “Order Free at Home Tests.”
  • Fill out the form. (TIP: Like with many new sites, there are glitches. Some people living in apartments, dorms or other multi-unit dwellings have reported getting a message that they’ve already ordered their masks for that address. If you include your apartment number, suite number, etc. in the “street address” field, you should be able to get around the issue.)
  • Click “Check Out Now”
  • That’s it.

The masks should be delivered seven to 12 days after you placed your order, White House officials say.

Free N95 Masks

The Biden administration said Wednesday it would provide 400 million N95 masks to pharmacies and other locations throughout the US where adults could pick them up free of charge. 

The masks will be limited to three per person and distribution will begin next week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that properly fitting N95, K95  or other filtering masks offer the best protection against the omicron variant. Cloth masks offer the least protection, the agency said.


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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