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How to get a COVID test without standing in the long lines

If your schedule permits you to wait a few days for test results, there are several companies in the region offering free PCR tests; most require an appointment.

WASHINGTON — Editor's Note: The video above is from Jan. 8.

With COVID case rates once again surging across the DMV, and many employers/schools tightening their return-to-building policies, rapid tests have become the hot-button item to secure this winter. Some people have reported standing in line in the cold for hours to get tested or to obtain an at-home testing kit.  

But if your schedule permits you to wait a few days for test results, there are several companies in the region offering free PCR tests. While some locations will accept walk-up customers, many are appointment only, and often reduce the wait times and lines you will encounter. 

Test Yourself DC

In addition to the eight library locations handing out rapid tests daily on a first-come, first-serve basis (get that information here) there are 36 locations, mostly libraries and rec centers, across all eight wards of the District where you can pick up a self-administered PCR test. 

You can pick up a test Monday-Saturday (hours vary by location) and drop off your completed test to be analyzed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Use this map to track how many tests are left at each location daily. Each site is limited to 100-200 test kits per day. 

Once you have your testing kit, log in here and follow the steps to take your test at home

You must register and take your test on the same day and drop it off before 8 p.m. that same day. If you do not, you will be notified that your sample cannot be processed and the test must be redone.

Test results are delivered within 3-5 days, and they will be emailed or texted to you, based on the contact information you provide at registration. 

Insurance is not required, but proof of D.C. residency is. 

You can find additional testing options across the District here

RELATED: Check before you go! Website shows how many COVID at-home testing kits are available at DC sites

Credit: DC Health

RELATED: These 8 DC libraries are getting at-home rapid COVID testing kits

Credit: DC Health


This on-demand health operation makes COVID-19 testing accessible through kiosks, vans, and drive-thrus at more than 10 locations within 20 miles of downtown D.C. You can sort using filters such as "available today" or by a specific date, or look for sites accepting walk-ins. You can book PCR tests (results in 1-2 days), rapid tests or priority PCR tests (results within two hours). 

Insurance is not required, but you're encouraged to bring an ID and your insurance card if you have one. 

Use this map to find the next appointment near you. 

RELATED: Yes, at-home COVID-19 rapid tests are as accurate as rapid tests done at testing sites

Sameday Health

This Los Angeles-based concierge company offers both PCR and rapid testing, in both drive-through and clinic locations, as well as home appointments. Due to high demand, all sites require appointments. 

Sameday guarantees results within 72 hours. but if you need rushed results, you can typically pay to rush testing results across all services. You will also get results texted and emailed to you for easy access, and the results are a full lab report, which can be used in most travel requirement scenarios. 

For all drive-thru and clinic locations, if you have insurance, a regular PCR test is free, rapid tests are $25 and a priority PCR test (results in 24 hours) will cost you $75. 


Virginia: Sterling and Tysons Corner

Maryland: Bethesda, Germantown and Frederick 

D.C.: N/A


Virginia: Alexandria and Ballston Quarter

Maryland: Bethesda, Silver Spring, Annapolis, Wheaton and Baltimore 

D.C.: Georgetown and Capitol Hill

*Editor's Note: Every time this reporter has used a Sameday clinic or drive-through, the results have come in within 30 hours or less. 

COVID test house calls

For $25, you can have a member of Sameday's concierge team come to your house in D.C., Maryland or Virginia and administer a PCR test; results are expected within 72 hours. 

You must book an appointment, and you can typically find appointments available within 3-7 days. At last check, in D.C., there were appointments available every day this week. 

If you want rushed results (within 24 hours) the cost increases to $75. 

You can find all costs of any Sameday Health testing service here

RELATED: Where to get an at-home COVID test in Montgomery County starting Jan 10

CVS Minute Clinic

A few of the CVS locations in the DMV are offering COVID testing by appointment only, but it's not all locations. Use this map to find if one near you has availability. 

If you really want a rapid test ...

Checking your local library system and finding out what day their tests are delivered, and arriving early that day is your best bet to secure a free test. 

Some DMV residents have reported getting lucky and finding tests still on shelves at local pharmacies. Here's what you can expect to pay for a rapid at-home test in the area: 

  • CVS – price ranges from $10-$125
  • Kroger – price starts at $24
  • Meijer – price starts at $16
  • Rite Aid – price ranges from $10-$38
  • Walgreens – price ranges from $24-$125
  • Walmart – prices range from $14 -$100

You can also buy rapid tests directly from iHealth Labs online. Each order comes with two test kits ($13.98 plus shipping) and you can buy five tests at a time. However, due to high demand, the company says the tests will ship within 10 days of ordering and you should allow another 5-10 days for delivery. 

Editor's Note: In this reporter's experience, an order placed Dec. 28 was delivered on Jan. 5.

Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests a month per person on the plan. Tests can be purchased for free under insurance plans, or you can submit receipts for reimbursement, for tests purchased on or after Jan. 15. And at the end of January, the government will launch a website to begin making 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests available via mail, to those who request them.

RELATED: Free at-home COVID tests: Reimbursement details, monthly limits

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