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How long can you use an at-home COVID-19 test once it's expired?

With cases on the rise, the FDA has extended the shelf life of many at-home COVID-19 tests.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County has shifted back into the CDC’s medium COVID-19 community level after a week in the high level. But data shows cases and hospitalizations are still rising in the state and county. Doctors are urging people to continue to do what they can to stop the spread of the virus.

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The amount of COVID-19 particles in North Carolina wastewater is the highest it’s been since this same time last year. This is a sign that there will likely be a rise in case counts in the coming weeks. 

In order for people to be prepared, health leaders are encouraging people to stock up on at-home tests.

“We have plenty in stock here at the health department so we’re encouraging folks to come in and pick them up as they need them. We still have availability in the libraries as well,” said Dr. Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County Health Director.

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Experts say testing will be key as COVID-19 metrics reach levels not seen in months. With the likely rise in case counts, you may be wondering if you can still use your expired at-home COVID-19 tests. 

Many of the tests already stockpiled have likely expired, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be used. After gaining FDA approval, in order to get COVID-19 tests produced and on shelves quickly, they were initially given an expiration date of only six months.

“Once they have studies to demonstrate the ability of the test to be effective beyond six months, then the FDA is able to extend the expiration dates,” Washington said.

It depends on the brand and type of test but it’s most likely been given a longer shelf life. The FDA’s website list how long each test’s shelf life has been extended.

With every free test that they give out, the health department gives a notice with the correct expiration information. For people who can’t access the FDA’s website, they encourage them to call the health department for help or to pick up new ones.

“Don’t use it if you’re not able to verify if the expiration has been changed,” Washington said.

The federal government is also allowing households to order four more free at-home tests.

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