In an effort to keep COVID numbers low as we head into winter, and just as some NJ school districts have switched to remote learning as COVID numbers rise, the New Jersey Department of Health is now offering free, at-home PCR COVID tests. The news comes as many NJ residents have had trouble finding PCR tests at their local drugstores and as parents have seen their children shut out of schools once again. Plainfield Public Schools switched to remote learning today through Thursday, while a school in the South Orange-Maplewood school district also went remote due to an uptick in numbers across all grades. Hunterdon Central Regional High School also opted to keep students out of school and on virtual learning, due to the need to conduct contact tracing.

“This new program increases the availability and accessibility of testing, particularly for those who may not be able to get to a testing site,” said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

The test, developed by Vault Health, a New York-based company, uses a saliva sample that is evaluated in a laboratory. When you use the test, you will need to have a Zoom call with a “test supervisor.” Results should be available within a few days. To receive a test in the mail, you must log onto https://learn.vaulthealth.com/nj/ and fill out a form. The company notes that you should not eat, drink, smoke, or chew anything for 30 minutes before the test. After completed, you ship it to the lab in a prepaid UPS package. The lab then takes 24 to 48 hours to process results. The test and it can be done with or without COVID symptoms, and at no cost to you.

The free tests were announced as positive cases of COVID are on the rise and people are concerned about the omicron variant, especially as families get ready to travel and gather for the holidays.