Viral tests check samples from your respiratory system, such as a swab from the inside of your nose, to tell you if you currently have an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Some tests are point-of-care tests, meaning results may be available at the testing site in less than an hour. Other tests must be sent to a laboratory to analyze, a process that takes 1–2 days once received by the lab.
How to get a Viral Test
Here is some information that may help you make decisions about getting a viral test:
• Most people have mild 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.
• If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and are not tested, it is important to stay home.
What to do After a Viral Test
• If you test positive for COVID-19, know what protective steps to take if you are sick or caring for someone.
• If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. The test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing. You may test negative if the sample was collected early in your infection and test positive later during your illness. You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and get infected then. This means you could still spread the virus. If you develop symptoms later, you may need another test to determine if you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
COVID-19 testing differs by location. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first. You can also visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing.