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Montana’s Harsh Winters and Mail-Order Covid Tests

The rise in Covid-19 cases and the new federally mandated reimbursement program from insurance companies has led to an increase in demand for mail-order, self-administered Covid-19 tests. Home testing, if correctly administered, can give you vital information about the need to avoid contact with others to limit spreading the virus. At-home testing is convenient, but the tests must be properly administered to avoid getting false negative results.

Recently, the Biden Administration launched a program to distribute at-home Covid tests sent through the US Postal Service. To get the taxpayer funded tests, you can go to, fill out the form, and receive four tests shipped directly to your home.

In the middle of winter, beware. Many of the at-home tests are not accurate when frozen. Montana temperatures dip below freezing this time of year, and tests sitting too long in cold temperatures may freeze and possibly malfunction. Manufacturers generally recommend a storage temperature of 59-86⁰F, but tests can be in lower or higher temperatures for short periods of time. Read all the instructions with the test you receive.

For best results from a test delivered in sub-freezing temperatures:

  • Bring the package out of the cold as soon as possible and leave it unopened at room temperature for two hours.
  • Once the package is at room temperature, you may open it and perform the test according to the instructions. If the test line(s) appear as indicated in the instructions, you can be reasonably confident the test is performing as it should.
  • If the line(s) do not appear in the correct location(s) and within the correct time as shown in the test instructions when you perform the test, the results may not be accurate, and a new test should be used.

If tests cannot be retrieved from an outdoor mailbox in a reasonable amount of time, consider in-person testing options, such as through your local health department. Health insurance providers are also required to reimburse members for the cost of up to eight rapid tests per month. Check with your insurer for specific information on how to obtain tests. In any case, please only obtain what you need. We don’t want to create scarcity nor cause higher costs to insurers that may drive up future premiums.

All of us need to take common-sense measures, such as testing when symptomatic, to avoid spreading the virus. By utilizing best practices when ordering and using Covid tests, fewer tests will be required, and transmission levels may be lowered in Montana.

Vaccines remain an effective tool to reduce infection, reduce spread, and reduce the severity of infection. Covid-19 vaccines help prevent serious illness and death if you contract the virus.  If you haven’t already, talk to your doctor about what’s best for you and your family.

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Troy Downing is the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, Montana State Auditor. Commissioner Downing is a two-tour combat veteran, businessman, and entrepreneur.