COVID Testing Q & A

Important Information about COVID Testing

It is possible I have been exposed to COVID-19.  When should I be tested?

It would be best to wait 2 to 5 days after exposure (at least 48 hours) to reach the median of the virus incubation period of 2 to 14 days.  You should take steps to protect others while you are in this incubation period.  You may need to re-test if symptoms develop.

I think I have COVID-19.  Should I be tested?

Maybe; not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19.  If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first. Most people will have mild illness and can recover while isolating at home without medical care and may not need to be tested.

CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are made by state and local health departments and healthcare providers.

You can also visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing.

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 might 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 might need another test to determine if you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Can someone who has been exposed but tested negative, still infect others?

False negatives are possible.  It would be best to exercise caution and protect others until the full incubation period of 14 days has passed. 

Can someone test negative and later test positive on a viral test for COVID-19?

Yes, it is possible. You may test negative if the sample was collected early in your infection and test positive later during this illness. You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and get infected then. Even if you test negative, you still should take steps to protect yourself and others if you have travelled or believe you have been exposed.