Testing in San Diego County

There are a variety of ways to be tested for COVID-19, including the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic and antigen diagnostic test. If you are experiencing symptoms or would like to get tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, please first contact your healthcare provider. 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.

No-Cost At-Home Test Kits Available

As of January 18th, 2022, every residential address in the United States is eligible to order 4 at-home COVID-19 test kits at no-cost. Tests can be ordered online at COVIDtests.gov or by calling 1-800-232-0233. The phone line is open 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM PST, seven days a week, for those who may have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional help to place an order. Only your name and residential address is required to place an order. No ID, credit card, or health insurance information is needed. Tests typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering. To view frequently asked questions about this program, including information on how test kits will be shipped, please visit: COVIDtests.gov/FAQ.

Find No-Cost Testing

If you are unable to get a COVID-19 test from your healthcare provider, testing is available at several locations across the county. Please see below for options available to you at no cost. 

Self Testing

A COVID-19 self-test is a rapid test that you can do at home and get results within 15-30 minutes. Self-tests are also known as a “home test,” an “at-home test,” or an “over-the-counter (OTC) test.” Self-tests can be purchased in stores, pharmacies, and online. Visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website for a list of authorized tests.

A home collection kit is another option that can be purchased over the counter. A sample is collected at home and sent to a lab for processing.

When to Consider Self-Testing

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed, or potentially exposed to an individual with COVID-19.
  • Before or after gatherings, parties, or holiday functions.
  • After large events, such as sports games, and after travel. 

Even if you don’t have symptoms and have not been exposed to an individual with COVID-19, using a self-test before gathering indoors with others can give you information about the risk of spreading COVID-19. This is especially important before gathering with unvaccinated children, older individuals, those who are immunocompromised, or individuals at risk of severe disease.

How To Use a Self-Test

Follow all the instructions inside the self-test kit. For additional information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/covidtesting and resources below.


If Your Test Result Is Positive

Regardless of vaccination status:

  • Stay home and separate yourself from others until your isolation period ends.
  • Wear a well-fitted mask, if others could have contact with you.
  • Tell a healthcare provider about your positive test result and stay in contact with them, especially if your symptoms are not improving or worsening.
  • Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. 
  • Get CA Notify to send and receive alerts if you were in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. 

For more information, including resources and support, go to What To Do If You Have COVID-19.

If Your Test Result Is Negative

A negative test result means the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in your specimen at the time the sample was taken. You may need to be tested again 5 days after exposure, or sooner if you develop symptoms.

If you took the test while you had symptoms and followed all instructions carefully, a negative result means your current illness is probably not COVID-19, though it does not rule out a COVID-19 infection. It is possible for a test to give a negative result in some people who have COVID-19. This is called a false negative. You could also test negative if the specimen was collected too early in your infection. In this case, you could test positive later during your illness.

Reporting of 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.


Test Results

Test results performed by a medical provider generally come back in approximately 1-2 days. If you have not received your results after four calendar days from the day you were tested, and you were tested at a County hosted site, you may submit a test result inquiry online. If you were tested at a non-County site, please contact the site where you were tested.

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. If you live with others, stay in a separate room with its own bathroom. Wear a well-fitted mask. Follow the County’s Home Isolation Instructions and practice physical distancing as you recover, including distancing from other people in your home and wearing a well-fitted mask that does not have exhalation valves or vents.
  • If you do NOT have symptoms, AND were NOT vaccinated, but were identified by a medical professional or a County Case Investigator as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, you should quarantine at home. A County Contact Tracer may contact you. 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 been vaccinated, you may resume your normal activities. Minimize your interactions with others until you get your results. Continue to practice proper hygiene, including washing your hands.