Tests and Masks

Given the unprecedented current caseload of COVID-19 in Rhode Island and globally, we want to make you aware of multiple options for procuring Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs), PCR tests, and protective masks. Please also consult the latest updates at Healthy Brown and contact Health Services with any medical concerns.

Free Tests

1) Brown University Local Distribution (Updated 21 May 2023)

  • Rapid antigen tests and KN95 masks are available to Brown students, faculty and staff for pick-up 24/7 at the Key Office located on the top level of the Graduate Center (42 Charlesfield St.). Each community member will be given one (1) FlowFlex rapid antigen test and a pack of two (2) Powecom KN95 masks.
  • Before discarding an expired rapid test, check for an expiration date extension here
  • If you reuse disposable KN95 masks, please follow these best practices to do so safely.

2) U.S. Government Mail Distribution

  • Every home address in the U.S. is eligible to order 3 separate batches of 4 free at-⁠home rapid antigen COVID-⁠19 tests, while supplies last. Orders will usually ship via USPS in 7-12 days. 

NOTE: Some people have reported technical issues with multi-unit addresses. If the kit is exposed to freezing temperatures, it may reduce its accuracy, so bring them inside from a mailbox promptly.

3) Insurance Reimbursement of Locally-Purchased Tests

  • On January 15, 2022, UnitedHealthcare began to cover over-the-counter (OTC) at-home COVID-19 tests under the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which was scheduled to end on May 11, 2023. Beginning May 12, 2023, OTC tests will no longer be covered under your medical or pharmacy benefits.
  • For more information on COVID-19 coverage after the Public Health Emergency please visit myuhc.com or call the number on your Member ID card.

4) State-Run Testing Sites (Updated 21 May 2023) 

Please carefully read the usage instructions for each test. The CDC’s current guidance states that “Antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 are generally less sensitive than molecular test like real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)”. The FDA’s current guidance states “Antigen tests are generally less sensitive and less likely to pick up very early infections compared to molecular tests” and that “Early data suggests that antigen tests do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity.”

Free Masks

1) Brown University Local Distribution

Rapid antigen test kits and KN95 masks will be available to Brown students, faculty and staff for pick-up 24/7 at the Key Office located in the Graduate Center (42 Charlesfield St.). You must have your Brown ID card with you to pick up supplies. Each community member will be given two (2) rapid antigen tests and a pack of KN95 masks.

If you do choose to reuse KN95 disposable masks, please follow best practices about to how to do so safely.

High-filtration respirators are highly recommended by the CDC to protect yourself from SARS-CoV-2 in aerosol particles or droplets. N95 is the USA NIOSH-rated classification meaning that it filters at least 95% of airborne particles, comparable to FFP2 (European), KN95 (Chinese), and KF94 (Korean) equivalent standards. Per Brown, “Mask fit is important and highly individualized, and we understand that the masks we can procure and provide will not be a perfect fit for every member of the community. An excellent resource for information about types and sources of masks is the Project N95 nonprofit organization.” If regular-sized KN95 feel too large on you, consider ordering a small size.