Test for Current Infection
Updated July 23, 2020
Viral tests check samples from your respiratory system, such as a swab from the inside of your nose, to see if you are currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Results from point-of-care tests may be available at the testing site in less than an hour. Other viral tests must be sent to a laboratory for analysis, a process that can take a few days. Some jurisdictions are experiencing a high demand for testing, which may cause a delay in processing tests and providing results.
Whether you test positive or negative for COVID-19, you should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others.
How to get a viral test
COVID-19 testing differs by location. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first.
Here is some additional information that may help you make decisions about getting a viral test:
- Most people have mild COVID-19 illness and can recover at home without medical care. Contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms are getting worse or if you have questions about your health.
- Decisions about testing are made by state and local health departments or healthcare providers. Visit your state or localexternal icon health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized viral tests that let you collect either a nasal swabexternal icon or a saliva sampleexternal icon at home. However, you will still need to send your sample to a laboratory for analysis.
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and are not tested, it is important to stay home. Find out what to do if you are sick.
- At this time, there is no treatment specifically approved for people who have COVID-19.
What to do after a viral test
Guidance on Interpreting COVID-19 Test Resultspdf iconexternal icon: A guide for understanding test results and determining what actions to take.
To get your test result, please check with the group that performed your test, such as your healthcare provider or health department. How long it will take to get your test results depends on the test used.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, know what protective steps to take if you are sick.
- If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. This does not mean you will not get sick:
- A negative test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing or that your sample was collected too early in your infection.
- You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and then get infected and spread the virus to others.
- If you develop symptoms later, you may need another test to determine if you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
- CDC: Frequently Asked Questions on Symptoms & Testing
- CDC: Overview of Testing for SARS-CoV-2 (for healthcare professionals)
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Coronavirus (COVD-19) Partner Toolkitexternal icon
- HHS Community-Based Viral Testing Sites for COVID-19external icon
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration FAQs on Viral Testing for SARS-CoV-2external icon