COVID-19 testing

Updated August 29, 2022

Testing is an important tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On this page:

Where to get tested

At-home antigen tests are a reliable first choice for getting tested. At-home tests give fast results, can be taken anywhere and are widely available. It is helpful to have a few of these tests in your home so they are available as soon as you need one. For the most accurate results, follow the test instructions closely.

Laboratory PCR tests are still available at many pharmacies, health care offices, urgent cares, private testing sites and at some schools or community testing sites.

Here are some testing programs to know about:

  • Order free at-home tests online or call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).
  • Get tested for free at a federally-sponsored Community-Based Test Site.
  • Free at-home tests may be available locally from your city or borough government, tribal health organization, Public Health Nursing or federally qualified health centers.
  • At-home tests can be purchased at stores, pharmacies, or online. (Note: you may be able to get reimbursed for the costs of these tests through your health insurance or through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.)

If you have COVID-19 symptoms and cannot find testing, stay home. Even if you don’t have COVID, staying home when you’re sick protects other people from getting sick.

When should I get tested?

  1. Test immediately if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
  2. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 but do not have symptoms, test 5 days after the exposure.
  3. Testing may be required or recommended before and/or after travel. Check local regulations before you travel. See the CDC’s latest travel guidance.
  4. A health care professional may ask you to get tested in certain situations.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Anyone with any symptom of COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible.

Fever, Cough, Fatique, Lack or loss of appetite, Sputum production, Myalgias

Most people with COVID-19 may start out with only one or two mild symptoms. People tend to be the most contagious during the first several days after they get the first symptom and can be contagious before they get any symptoms. Some people don't have any symptoms at all and feel completely well but are still contagious. If you notice even mild symptoms, you should get tested.

What should I do if I test positive?

If you test positive, isolate yourself to prevent spreading the virus to others, and talk to your doctor as soon as possible to see if COVID-19 medications are right for you.

How common are false positives and false negatives?

False positives are rare, but false negatives can occur. If a test is not done properly, or if you are in an early stage of infection or already partially recovered, your swab sample might not contain enough viral material to come back positive.

Whether you take a COVID-19 test at home or at a testing site, any positive test result is very reliable evidence that you have COVID-19.

For more information