Page last updated/reviewed 3/30/2023.
There are a number of ways you can test to see if you have COVID-19. Contact your healthcare provider, visit your local drug store, or find a testing site in your community. If you do not have a healthcare provider and would like to get connected to one, call 2-1-1. If you have serious symptoms, like difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1.
See below, or click the following links, for more information:
Key times to get tested:
- If you have symptoms, test immediately.
- If you were exposed to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms, wait at least 5 full days after your exposure before testing. If you test too early, you may be more likely to get an inaccurate result.
- If you are in certain high-risk settings, you may need to test as part of a screening testing program.
- Considering testing before contact with someone at high risk for severe COVID-19, especially if you are in an area with medium or high COVID-19 Community Level.
Self-test kits, sometimes also called “home tests,” “at-home tests,” or “over-the-counter (OTC) tests,” for COVID-19 detect current infection.
- They give results in a few minutes and can be taken anywhere.
- Self-tests can be purchased in stores, pharmacies, and online.
- Visit the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website for a list of authorized tests.
When to Self-Test
- If you have symptoms, test immediately.
- If you were exposed to COVID-19, wait at least 5 full days after your exposure before testing. If you test negative, consider testing again 1 to 2 days after your first test.
- If you are going to an indoor event or a gathering, test immediately before the gathering, or as close to the time of the event as possible. This is especially important before gathering with individuals at risk of severe disease, older adults, those who are immunocompromised, or people who are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, including children who cannot get vaccinated yet.
How To Use a Self-Test
- Follow all the instructions inside the self-test kit. If you do not follow the instructions, your test result may be incorrect.
- Using Your COVID-19 Self-Test Kit (Infographic)
- How to Use a Self-Test (Video) | Español | American Sign Language (ASL)
- Manufacturer Instructions (Videos)
- How To Interpret Self-Test Results (Video)
Reporting a Self-Test Result
- Individuals should report their result according to the instructions recommended by the self-test kit.
- Reporting of a self-test result is not required. However, if you feel you need medical attention, sharing your self-test result with your healthcare provider maybe helpful.
Every U.S. household is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests this winter.
- Visit www.covid.gov/tests to place your order.
- People with a health plan can go online, or to a pharmacy or store to purchase an at-home OTC COVID-19 test at no-cost, either through reimbursement or free of charge through their insurance.
- Health plans must cover eight (8) individual at-home, OTC COVID-19 tests per person enrolled in the plan per month. That means a family of four can get 32 tests per month for free.
- For more information, please click here.
Medi-Cal and Medicare Recipients can get no-cost at-home COVID-19 antigen tests.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH), in partnership with the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), is offering no-cost at-home COVID-19 antigen tests. Each person with a Medi-Cal or Medicare card can receive up to 8 tests (or 4 boxes if each box has 2 tests) each month.
If you have Medi-Cal, follow these steps:
- Get the Medi-Cal or Medicare card(s) for each person in your family.
- Go to a pharmacy or a store with a pharmacy.
- Go to the pharmacy counter where prescriptions are dropped off. Other registers in the store cannot provide free COVID-19 tests.
- Show your Medi-Cal or Medicare card(s) and ask for 8 at-home COVID-19 antigen tests for each person.
For more information, click here.
Regardless of vaccination status, if your test result is:
- The test detected the virus, and you have an infection.
- Isolate and take precautions, including wearing a high-quality mask to protect others from getting infected.
- Tell people you had recent contact with that they may have been exposed.
- Watch for symptoms. If you have any emergency warning signs, seek emergency care immediately.
- Contact your healthcare provider, community health center, or pharmacy to learn about treatment options that may be available to you. You are more likely to get very sick if you are an older adult or have an underlying medical condition.
For more information, visit What To Do If You Have COVID-19.
- The test did not detect the virus but does not rule out an infection.
- If you have symptoms:
- You may have COVID-19, but tested before the virus was detectable, or you may have another illness.
- Take general public health precautions to prevent spreading an illness to others.
- Contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms worsen.
- If you do not have symptoms but were exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, you should continue to take recommended steps after exposure.
- If you do not have symptoms and you have not been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, you may continue normal activities.