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Free COVID Tests Are Arriving In The Mail: What To Know About Expiration Dates, Cold Temps

NATICK (CBS) - The federal government's free COVID test kits are now trickling into mailboxes in the Boston area. Some people are still waiting for notifications, but postal carriers tell WBZ-TV they are coming in now.

"Quite a few have come through," said mail carrier Matt Deroche. He has been braving bitter cold temperatures delivering them. The box on the kits says it should not be stored below 36 degrees. This week temperatures have dipped into the 20's, teens, and even single digits.

"Right now, we don't have any evidence to suggest that the tests are compromised by temperature extremes," said Newton-Wellesley Dr. Michael Misialek. "We definitely need more study in the area."

He said manufacturers have assured the medical community that the tests will still be accurate even after sitting in cold mailboxes. Experts say they should sit at room temperature for at least two hours before they're used.

"I'll save it, you know, hopefully they don't expire anytime soon," said Maria Sullivan from Ashland.

Dr. Misialek said it's important to pay attention to the date on the box. "To be safe, it should generally be used before the expiration date," he said. "The reagents and the antibodies that are in that test are susceptible to degradation, and the sooner the test is used, the better."

Some say the tests are arriving too late, with COVID cases dropping, and kids taking masks off in schools. But Dr. Misialek said people still need them for when they have symptoms, if they've been a close contact, or plan to be with someone who's at risk.

"The important point here is that we're not out of the pandemic yet. There could still be another variant that pops up," he said. "We are going to need them for the foreseeable future."

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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