How to Get Tested For COVID-19

Covid testing is a series of tests that checks to see if you have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. They may include a swab test or an antibody test.

CDC recommends that all people who are sick with COVID-19 or who have been exposed to someone with the virus should get tested. These include people who are pregnant, have weakened immune systems, or live in an area with ongoing COVID-19 transmission.

At-home rapid antigen tests are available for free through the Division of Public Health, Medicare and private insurance companies and for purchase from retail pharmacies. Find out if you qualify and how to schedule your test below.

Drive-thru testing: Health care providers stand outside and do testing through car windows instead of in a traditional office setting. This type of testing is offered at permanent and temporary outdoor sites throughout the city.

A swab or saliva sample is collected from the back of your nose (anterior nares) and sent to a lab. These samples are then analyzed for genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19.

If a swab or saliva sample is positive, you’re likely to be infected with the COVID-19 virus. You should follow the most current isolation guidelines and notify your close contacts.

PCR testing: The fastest and most reliable way to test for the virus is by using a PCR test. During the PCR test, short sequences called primers attach to the DNA in your sample. Then, the PCR enzymes use those primers to amplify specific viral genes.

Good PCR tests like those used at UC Davis Health are very sensitive and highly specific, with a low false negative rate. However, some less-accurate tests have reported false negative rates as high as 15% to 20%.

In addition to PCR, there are several other types of molecular tests that can be used to detect COVID-19. These tests use a technique called real-time reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction, recombinase polymerase amplification or other methods that rely on the same DNA molecules.

These are not as accurate and can miss some cases of infection, so it is important to get a more precise test if you have symptoms or are unsure whether you are infected.

Some PCR tests require trained personnel and special equipment, and they tend to take hours for results to be available. This is especially true if the sample has to be transported to a lab.

If you’re infected with COVID-19 go here, you may be able to get an immunity boost through a vaccine that will give your body antibodies that protect it against future infections and severe illness. A vaccine can also help you to recover from an existing COVID-19 infection, if you have one.

Besides a vaccine, other ways to fight the disease are to: wear a face cover when in crowded places; wash your hands frequently; and avoid crowds or activities that put you at risk of being around people who have COVID-19.

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