Learn about the COVID-19 test and testing criteria.

What are the tests available for COVID-19?

Learn about the COVID-19 test and testing criteria

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There are two kinds of tests available for COVID-19:

  • Viral test which tells you if you are currently infected with COVID-19
  • Antibody test which tells you if you were previously infected with COVID-19

According to the CDC, an antibody test may not be able to show if you have a current infection, because it can take 1-3 weeks after infection to make antibodies. Antibodies are key elements in your body that recognize foreign substances such as viruses and bacteria to neutralize them and attack them by other mechanisms in your body. Scientists still do not know if having antibodies to COVID-19 can protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.


Viral testing might not be available for everyone due to limited supplies and testing criteria determined by state and local health departments or healthcare providers. However, if you have symptoms or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, it is important you call your doctor or a healthcare facility, or local health department, and follow their guidelines on what to do. Your doctor will consider different risk factors for whether or not you should get tested for the virus, such as your age, your general health, where you live and work, your exposure risk, your travel history and your current symptoms.If you have a primary doctor who does not provide testing at their medical facility, you will be referred to a COVID-19 testing site. You can take your doctor’s referral to the testing site; however, it is likely you will go through a second assessment by a medical professional to determine whether or not you need a COVID-19 test. If you do not have a primary doctor, some cities have testing sites available to the public, including some that are free of cost. Contact your local health department to ask about what options are available in your area.Typically, you are most likely to get tested for COVID-19 if you:

  • Have a high fever or breathing difficulties that require care in a hospital.
  • Work in a healthcare facility, congregate living setting (such as a long-term care facility, shelter, or prison), are a first responder or provide direct care to patients, and have symptoms.
  • Reside in a long-term care facility or other congregate living setting, including prisons and shelters, and have symptoms.
  • Live with certain health conditions, such as:
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Chronic lung disease
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Immunosuppressive therapy
  • Or if you have symptoms, such as:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chills
    • Muscle pain
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Vomiting or diarrhea
    • Sore throat


COVID-19 testing varies by location. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first. If you do not have a healthcare provider, you can also access other testing sites by visiting your state and local health departments.

Some of UnidosUS’s corporate partners are also delivering testing by appointment for those who meet CDC and state and local guidelines on who should get tested:

  • Walmart is currently providing testing in select locations across the United States. All sites use a self-administered nasal swab test while individuals remain in their car.
  • CVS is currently delivering no-cost, drive up COVID-19 testing in select states and are working on adding new locations. An assessment will determine if you qualify for COVID-19 testing. Appointments and registration are available online.


Viral tests check samples from your respiratory system (such as swabs of the inside of the nose) to tell you if you currently have a COVID-19 infection. In some testing sites, results may be available in less than an hour. However, other tests must be sent to a laboratory to be analyzed, a process that can take a few days for results to be ready. It is important you provide the testing site with your most accurate contact information (phone, email, address) for them to easily contact you with results.

Some testing sites are allowing individuals to self-administer the test under the supervision of a medical provider to ensure the sample is taken correctly, but most have medical professionals collect the sample. Both can be performed from the comfort of your own vehicle, drive-through style. If you do not have a vehicle, testing sites should still be able to assist you. Whether the test is self-administered or administered by a medical professional, this involves swabbing the inside of the nose with a skinny swab. The test is mildly uncomfortable and it may cause your eyes to tear, but it should not be painful.


If your test shows that you have been infected with the virus, it is important that you follow guidelines and instructions given by your doctor or a health care provider. Most cases of illness are mild and can be managed at home. Generally, you will be asked to isolate yourself, which means separating yourself from people who are not infected. This also means that if you have come in close contact with people, they should also self-quarantine for 14 days based on the time it can take to become sick.

The CDC recommends that in order to care for yourself while you are sick and to help protect other people in your home and community, you should follow these steps:

  • Stay home except to get medical care.
    • Stay home. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and they can recover at home.
    • Take care of yourself. Get rest and make sure to drink plenty of water.
    • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care and be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing or have any other warning signs.
    • Avoid public transportation or ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Separate yourself from other people.
    • If possible, stay in a specific room in your home and stay away from other people and pets. This includes using a separate bathroom, if available. If you need to be around people or animals in or outside of the home, wear a face mask.
  • Monitor your symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, loss of taste or smell, vomiting or diarrhea. If helpful, write down on a piece of paper your symptoms with the dates as you develop them. This will help you track your symptoms while you are on quarantine and answer questions your medical provider may ask you about your symptoms. Tracking your symptoms is especially important to help determine whether it is safe for you to discontinue isolation.
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
  • Wear cloth mask over your nose and mouth.
    • You should wear a cloth mask over your nose and mouth when you are around others.
    • You do not need to wear a cloth mask if you are alone.
  • Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue.
    • Make sure to throw the tissue right after in a trash can and wash your hands right after.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is specifically important after blowing your nose or covering a sneeze or a cough with a tissue. If soap is not available, use an alcohol based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, eating utensils, or bedding with other people in your home.
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day.
    • Clean and disinfect high touch areas in your “sick room” and bathroom.
    • If a caregiver or other person needs to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so only as needed.

For more information, please visit CDC guidelines here.

IMPORTANT: If you have an emergency warning sign such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, bluish lips or face, inability to stay awake, get emergency medical care immediately or call 911. Tell the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.


You might be able to get tested again. However, since testing supplies are limited, your doctor may or may not recommend for you to get a second to see if you still have COVID-19. If you do not get a second test, you are considered no longer contagious and can be with others after:

  • 3 days with no fever without the aid of medications to reduce it
  • Symptoms improved
  • 10 days since symptoms first appeared

If you have tested positive during your first test but did not have symptoms and continue to not have symptoms, you can be around others after:

  • 10 days have passed since your test

It is important to note that these are general recommendations for the public and that you should always seek professional medical advice.

If you tested negative during your second COVID-19 testing, it does not mean you are protected from the new coronavirus. You may still become infected at a later time and need a another test to gauge your recovery and make sure you are no longer contagious to others.


It is important to remember that if you have come in close contact with someone with COVID-19, you should:

  • Stay home for 14 days after your last exposure
  • Check your temperature twice a day and watch symptoms of COVID-19
  • If possible, stay away from people who are at higher-risk for getting very sick from COVID-19


Testing Sites