Alaska News

At-home COVID-19 tests that freeze in transit are likely still usable — just make sure they’re thawed out

The federal government has launched a website that allows every household in the U.S. to order four at-home COVID-19 tests to be shipped to their home free of charge.

As those tests start arriving on Alaskans’ doorsteps this week, health officials responded to concerns that the tests could freeze and become unusable if they were left in mailboxes in freezing temperatures for too long.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in updated guidance posted over the weekend that the tests should work even after spending time in the cold. However, “test performance may be impacted if the test is used while it is still cold,” the FDA said.

People who get their tests should bring them inside and leave the box unopened at room temperature for at least two hours before using them as an added precaution, the guidance said.

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They should also closely follow the test instructions, which will usually give some indication of whether the test has become unusable — such as a “control” line.

“As long as the test line(s) appear as described in the instructions, you can be confident that the test is performing as it should,” the FDA said.

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, added in a social media thread that Alaskans should also avoid using the tests after multiple freeze cycles, and to “be alert to the possibility of an invalid test prior to use and do not use if the tests appears invalid,” she said.

To order the free tests, Alaskans can visit and enter their name and address. The tests are expected to ship within seven to 12 days.

State health officials said recently that they had heard reports of Alaskans with P.O. boxes having difficulties ordering the tests, which seem to require a verifiable physical address.

“We know many Alaskans either don’t have a ZIP code or a specific address to ship to, so we have been working with the federal government to make sure that we can get these tests available to you,” Zink said.

Alaskans with any troubles ordering the tests can also call 1-800-275-8777 for assistance, Zink said.

Annie Berman

Annie Berman covers health care for the Anchorage Daily News. She's a fellow with Report for America, and is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. A veteran of AmeriCorps and Vista volunteer programs, she's previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in the Bay Area.