Using Antigen Tests

When to use PCR and when to use Antigen Home Kits

For students, faculty, and university staff who are coming to campus, we recommend using the campus Pop Testing program that is available to you. This PCR testing program will provide highly accurate laboratory results for screening, diagnosis, and generating notifications to others on campus who may have had an exposure.

As home antigen tests are increasing access and availability to testing, please be advised of the following.

Self-administered antigen tests (home kits) are best used for:

USC Student pre-arrival to campus (negative test result), as part of readiness for travel. For example, if you are a new student getting ready to come to USC and are required to test before arriving for the semester, an at-home negative result will be accepted if a PCR test is not easily available to you.

USC University Employee confirmation of COVID-19 (positive test result), if accompanied by symptoms. For example, if you are a university employee who does not live near either campus and you are feeling symptomatic while at home, you may take a home antigen test to confirm you have COVID-19. Upload your POSITIVE result into MySHR and follow the instructions to complete the Contact Tracing Form. Exception: Keck Medicine of USC employees should follow testing and clearance protocols from Keck Employee Health.

Personal use: At-home tests may be useful when planning gatherings or private events.

PREVIOUSLY POSITIVE (90 days): If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and you are under case management with USC Student Health (you tested with Student Health, or you uploaded your positive results into MySHR), you will be offered an antigen testing appointment for DAY 6 of your isolation period. This is to evaluate whether you may end isolation earlier than the full 10-day isolation period. An antigen test appointment and kit will be made available to you. Follow the specific instructions from USC Student Health on preparing for the test and having a TeleMed appointment to confirm the results with a health care professional. If you have a Telemed appointment, you may use an antigen test kit issued by USC Student Health, or an antigen test kit you obtain on your own.

You should NOT have an antigen or PCR test for any other purpose during the 90-day window.

Obtaining Home Antigen Tests

Antigen Test Reimbursement through Health Insurance Plans

On January 10, the Biden Administration finalized guidance requiring all group health plans and health insurers to cover over the counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests without member cost share effective January 15, 2022.

Faculty and Staff: Covered Benefit through Health Insurance (Reimbursement)

Faculty and staff covered by a USC health plan are now able to purchase over-the-counter (OTC), including at-home, COVID-19 tests authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at no cost without a prescription. Please note that the FFCRA applies to most insurance plans; if you are not covered by a USC plan, check with your insurance company for details. The reimbursement of OTC COVID-19 tests will remain in effect until the Public Health Emergency (PHE) is rescinded. That date has not been announced. Visit the applicable health plan page below for specific details.

USC Students:

Antigen kits are available at the Customer Service Centers in USC Housing.

Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP, provided through Aetna, Pharmacy Benefit)

For students covered through USC Student Health SHIP program, the plan administrator is developing a convenient direct coverage arrangement that allows plan members to obtain OTC tests without an up-front payment. This plan is in development with participating retail pharmacy networks. To position the pharmacy network for the direct coverage arrangement, OTC tests covered under the pharmacy benefit.

  • Coverage for OTC tests is under your pharmacy benefit
  • OTC tests no longer require a physician’s order
  • The quantity limit for OTC tests is 8 tests per member every 30 days
  • Kits may be obtained through the Aetna network of pharmacy providers

US Postal Service: Antigen Kits Mailed to Residential Addresses (PLEASE NOTE, as of 12/15/22 this program has been reinstated.)

Antigen tests also available from the federal government, through the US Postal Service. Residential households in the U.S. can order one set of four (4) free at-home tests .

College students residing on or off campus may request free testing kits. Students with shared housing addresses (residence halls, apartment buildings, group housing) should each enter their unique room or apartment number, and/or letter A, B, C, D, etc. along with their street address on the ordering form (or via phone). Students with unreliable or no internet access may call 1-800-232-0233 to request free at-home COVID-19 testing kits. If your mailing request was rejected by the USPS due to shared housing addresses, call USPS Customer Service at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).