Testing in San Diego County

COVID-19 tests are used to evaluate your health for COVID-19 infection and help public health agencies control the virus’ spread. Testing also helps identify specific areas and groups with higher rates of infection. Understanding these patterns is important to protect the public’s health and continue safely reopening the County.

If you are experiencing symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call 2-1-1. If you have serious symptoms, like difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1.

Find free testing

Health plans are required to cover COVID-19 tests at no cost to the enrollee. It is recommended that you first contact your healthcare provider for a COVID-19 test.

If you are unable to get a test from your healthcare provider, the County of San Diego has coordinated free diagnostic COVID-19 testing at many locations. These tests take about 5-10 minutes. Results generally come back in approximately 3 days. Individuals must be 12 years of age or older to be tested at a County-coordinated testing site. For youth under the age of 12, it is recommended that you first consult your pediatrician or physician provider for guidance on testing.

  • Most youth and their caregivers can receive testing through the COVID-19 Collaborative for Children in partnership with Rady Children's Hospital. Contact your Rady pediatrician or e-mail covidcollaborative@rchsd.org for more information.
  • Youth and caregivers covered by Kaiser Permanente should consult with their pediatrician or physician provider directly, or through www.kp.org.

Appointments are required at most sites. Testing at Tubman-Chavez Community Center, Cal State University San Marcos, University of San Diego, San Diego State University, San Ysidro Border Test Site, and Mar Vista High School are drop-in locations and do not require an appointment. To make an appointment online, find a site below using the testing location or testing schedule button. Or call 2-1-1 (toll free).

Appointments can be made up to one week in advance.

Who should get a COVID-19 test?

To align with the recently updated Federal (07/17/20) and State (08/03/20) testing priorities, local San Diego County guidance on testing priorities has been released (08/17/20). These new priorities use a tiered approach to take into account current testing capacity/availability and are subject to changes in the future, as new information is known and conditions change.

The highest priority for the County of San Diego testing sites remains to test groups and individuals with COVID-19 infection symptoms, followed by asymptomatic people in high-risk groups or settings which include:

  • High-risk symptomatic individuals
  • People exposed to infected individuals in places where COVID-19 risk is high
  • Healthcare workers, first responders, other social service employees, and people in other essential jobs*
  • People considered part of vulnerable populations**
  • Older adults
  • People with underlying medical conditions
  • Caretakers of older adults or those with underlying medical conditions

*This includes occupations such as utility workers, grocery store workers, food supply workers, and other public-facing employees including childcare and school workers.

**Vulnerable populations include those in ethnic and racial minority groups, people with HIV/AIDS, people experiencing homelessness, those in rural areas, migrant workers, and Native Americans. National and local data suggest that some groups are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and thus are included here. See CDC Health Equity considerations here and here for local data.

Test results

Results from County-coordinated testing sites generally come back in approximately 3 to 5 days. If your test result is negative, you will be notified by e-mail. If your test result is positive, you will be notified by phone and e-mail. When checking e-mail, be sure to also check your junk mail folder. If you do not get an e-mail or call after 5 days, call 2-1-1 to speak to the COVID-19 Nurse Help Line.

While waiting for your test results, continue to monitor your health and take steps to protect yourself and others. Next steps will depend on your situation.

  • If you are experiencing symptoms, stay home and keep your distance from others. Follow Home Isolation Instructions and practice physical distancing as you recover, including distancing from other people in your home.
  • If you do NOT have symptoms, but were identified by a medical professional as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, you should quarantine at home. Follow Home Quarantine Guidance in case you have been infected. If you are an essential worker, talk to your employer to see if you may continue working with extra precautions.
  • If you do NOT have symptoms and have NOT been advised by a medical professional to quarantine at home, you may resume your normal activities. Minimize your interactions with others until you get your results. Continue to practice physical distancing, wear a face covering outside the house, and practice proper hygiene, including washing your hands.

Types of testing

The County of San Diego coordinated sites currently only provide diagnostic testing, which reveals an active COVID-19 infection. Diagnostic tests generally involve collection of a swab sample from the nose. There is no blood drawn for these tests.

For your convenience, drive-up test appointments are provided as an option, in addition to walk-in test appointments. During a drive-up test, the medical test is performed while you are sitting in your vehicle.

Additional Resources