Testing for COVID-19 CDC Information
Laboratory tests can identify the virus that causes COVID-19 in respiratory specimens. State and local public health departments have received tests from CDC while medical providers are getting tests developed by commercial manufacturers. These tests are Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panels, that can provide results in 4 to 6 hours (depending upon community circumstances).
Who Should Be Tested
Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Below is information that might help in making decisions about seeking care or testing:
- Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.
- There is no treatment specifically approved for this virus.
- Testing results may be helpful to inform decision-making about who you come in contact with.
CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians. Clinicians work with their state and local health departments to coordinate testing through public health laboratories, or work with clinical or commercial laboratories.
How to Get Tested
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, try calling your state or local health department or a medical provider. While supplies of tests are increasing, it may still be difficult to find a place to get tested.
What to Do After You Are Tested
If you test positive for COVID-19:
- Stay home except to get medical care.
- Stay home: Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and are able to recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
- Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency.
- Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
- Separate yourself from other people in your home, this is known as home-isolation.
- Stay away from others: As much as possible, you should stay away from others. You should stay in a specific “sick room” if possible, and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
If you test negative for COVID-19:
- You probably were not infected at the time your specimen was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. It is possible that you were very early in your infection at the time of your specimen collection and that you could test positive later, or you could be exposed later and then develop illness. In other words, a negative test result does not rule out getting sick later.
The CDC expects that widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur. In the coming months, most of the U.S. population will be exposed to this virus. You should continue to practice all the protective measures recommended to keep yourself and others free from illness.
What Do Your COVID Test Results Mean?
Back to top