When should I get tested for COVID-19?
- If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, even if you have been fully vaccinated
- If you have had a close contact exposure to someone with COVID-19 (see chart below)
- If you are unvaccinated and have participated in a high-risk activity such as a large gathering
- As recommended by the Chicago travel advisory or for international travel
A viral test checks specimen from your nose or your mouth to find out if you are currently infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
Get tested immediately if you have symptoms of COVID-19, and isolate until you know your results, even if you are fully vaccinated.
If you have no symptoms, but have contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should also get tested and protect others as follows:
Get tested 3-5 days after close contact with someone with COVID-19
Quarantine is not usually required if you have no symptoms.
However, wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until test result is negative and monitor for symptoms.
Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated
Get tested immediately after being notified of exposure.
If negative, test again 5-7 days after last exposure
Get tested immediately if symptoms develop.
Quarantine is required.
Quarantine may be discontinued after 7 days, if you test negative on a specimen collected on or after day 5 from your last exposure
People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered, as long as they do not develop new symptoms, do not need to get tested or quarantine following an exposure to COVID-19.
Additionally, those attending large events, may be asked to provide proof of negative tests if unvaccinated (pre-event defined by event organizers and no more than 72 hours prior to the event).
Testing alone will not stop the spread of COVID-19. The best way to lower your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 is to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to take other steps like wearing a mask and staying home when you are sick. Whether you test positive or negative for COVID-19, you should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others.
- At your healthcare provider or urgent care centers. If you don’t have a regular doctor or medical insurance, locate a community health center.
- Find information about Pediatric COVID Testing Sites here.
- In a pharmacy. Call or visit the website of your local pharmacy to find out if they offer COVID-19 testing. Free, no-cost testing is available at many pharmacies across Chicago, including:
- Federally funded program at Walgreens
At-home collection kits and tests are available by prescription or over the counter in a pharmacy or retail store.
Over the counter (no prescription needed): Several tests can be purchased in pharmacies without a prescription and used by a consumer in their own home (Abbott, Ellume, LabCorp). Fully "at-home tests", such as the Abbott BinaxNOW and Ellume, cost between $10-$40 per test and can provide an answer in as little as 15-20 minutes, while result from the LabCorp test (which is sent out to a laboratory for testing) may be available in 1-2 days.
In addition to test available for purchase over the counter, the Food and Drug Administration has authorized dozens of test-by-mail kits (where a kit is sent directly to your home, and you mail it back to a laboratory for testing. Often, you fill out a screening questionnaire and receive a kit with instructions on how to collect and return your sample. Some tests include a telehealth consultation. Results are usually available 1-3 days later. Some options are available for free, regardless of your insurance or documentation status. For example, the nose swab from Pixel by LabCorp will bill your health insurance or the federal government (if you are uninsured or undocumented) so you may pay nothing upfront, and health insurance companies are legally not allowed to pass the cost of your COVID-19 test on to you. With some other nasal swabs (like Everywell or LetsGetChecked) and saliva options (like Vault or Vitagene), you may have to pay upfront and claim the money back from your insurance, though many are accepted by HSA and FSA plans. This is not an exhaustive list and CDPH does not necessary recommend any specific private company.
If you don’t have a health care provider or medical insurance, there are approximately 165 community health centers throughout Chicago, so find one that is close to you at hrsa.gov. No patient will be turned away because of inability to pay. Community health centers provide services regardless of patients’ immigration status and charge for services on a sliding fee scale.
City of Chicago Community-Based Testing: CDPH has partnered with Rush University Medical Center and Esperanza Health Centers to offer testing at no-cost to Chicago residents, regardless of your insurance or documentation status.
Doctors Test Centers, in connection with Simple Laboratories, now offers rapid and PCR testing at O'Hare and Midway airports. Airport testing is available for travelers and airport/CDA employees for a fee: The Rapid Antigen Test is $120.00, and patients will receive results in about 20 minutes. The PCR Test is $145.00, and patients will receive results in about 24-72 hours. Test recipients will need to show proof of flying (within 72 hours before their flight or five days after) or proof of airport employment. Find more information here.
Use the City of Chicago’s interactive testing map to find a testing site near you. The map is updated frequently as locations are continuously added. Please note different testing sites might have different requirements. We recommend calling in advance or checking online first. For additional information, see the Illinois Department of Public Health list of testing sites.
Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests.
- A viral test tells you if you have a current infection.
- An antibody testmight tell you if you had a past infection.
Several viral tests, including the Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), rapid point-of-care (POC) molecular tests, and the POC antigen test, have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are recommended to diagnose current COVID-19 infection.
Antibody EUA - FDA tests are used to detect past COVID-19 infection. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection. An antibody test may not show if you have a current COVID-19 infection because it can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies.
Ask your medical provider about the type of test they provide to confirm viral tests are used to test for current COVID-19 infection.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, you most likely DO currently have an active COVID-19 infection and can give the virus to others. Stay home for 10 days after your symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours with no fever (without using fever-reducing medications) and improved symptoms, whichever is longer. If at any time you develop severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, seek medical care right away and do not wait for results of your test.
Be sure to tell all your close contacts they need to get tested, and they should quarantine if they are not fully vaccinated. The quarantine period should be at least 7 full days (with a negative test on/after day 5) or 10 days (if unable to test). The safest amount of time for everyone to quarantine is 14 days.
You may receive a phone call from the City of Chicago’s contact tracers for a phone interview. The call will come from 312-74-COVID (312-742-6843). Please answer this phone call and provide as much detail as possible. Additional information can be found at chicago.gov/contacttracing.
- If you test negative for COVID-19, you most likely DO NOT currently have an active COVID-19 infection. However, even with a negative test result, if you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, you must complete a quarantine period if you are unvaccinated. The quarantine period should be at least 7 full days (with a negative test on/after day 5) or 10 days (if unable to get tested), but a 14-day quarantine is the safest option. Stay home and watch for symptoms of COVID-19. If you develop any new symptoms after testing, you should isolate, get another COVID-19 test, and get medical care as needed.
If you are symptomatic but have a negative COVID-19 test, we recommend that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your symptoms resolved.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, any close contacts who are not vaccinated (and have not recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) must quarantine in their home for 10 days from their last contact with you. Testing is not required to end quarantine, but they may discontinue quarantine after 7 days, if they test negative on a specimen collected on or after day 5 from the last contact.
- Close contacts who are fully vaccinated or have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 3 months do not need to quarantine, as long as they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. Vaccinated contacts should get tested 3-5 days after exposure and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until test result is negative.
- Any close contacts who are fully vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19 who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should isolate themselves at home and contact their healthcare provider immediately.
- Let your contact know that they may receive a call from the City of Chicago’s contact tracers for a phone interview. The call will come from 312-74-COVID (312-742-6843). Please answer this phone call and provide as much detail as possible. Additional information can be found at gov/contacttracing.
The clock resets if you develop symptoms during your isolation period. If you develop symptoms you have to stay isolated at home for at least 1 day after your fever has resolved without the use of fever- reducing medications, AND there is improvement in your respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), AND at least 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
If you were a contact to a positive case and were in quarantine when your symptoms developed you must follow the isolation instructions for people with symptoms.
- Screening testing is sometimes used by some organizations or employers. Screening testing is testing performed on someone who does not have any symptoms and who has not been around someone with COVID-19. Often, this is performed regularly as part of making a workplace or event safer.
- Testing before and after travel is also sometimes required. This is particularly true for international travel, and requirements can differ by destination. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel-during-covid19.html for more information on international travel during COVID-19.
- If you have to be tested for screening purposes such as for work or travel, make sure that you get a test that meets the requirements of your employer, airline, or other institution.
- Both nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) and antigen tests can be used for screening testing. Antigen tests are often used because they are cheaper and provide fast results.
- For insured individuals: health insurers are required (by federal law) to cover the entire cost of diagnostic testing for the virus for symptomatic, those exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case and if ordered by a doctor.
- If you are uninsured: you are advised to ask the testing site if you will be responsible for any fees associated with your test. Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPPHCEA), and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES), a testing site can receive reimbursement for fees associated with testing uninsured individuals.
- Some testing sites may charge individuals for testing upfront and advise the person being tested to seek reimbursement from their health insurance or Medicaid/Medicare, which can be complicated and time-consuming. Contact your health insurance provider, Medicare, or Medicaid if you have questions about claiming costs back.
- Testing for travel or testing required by employers may not be reimbursable from health insurance or the federal government. Call the provider or your employer ahead of time to identify if there is a cost to you.
- The Chicago Department of Public Health does not regulate COVID-19 testing sites. If you suspect COVID-19 health care fraud or wish to submit a complaint about a COVID-19 testing site, report it to the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) immediately online or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).
If you test negative for COVID-19, you most likely do not currently have an active COVID-19 infection. However, no test is perfect, and you can sometimes get false negative results. You should keep monitoring symptoms and follow CDPH guidance on steps to protect yourself and others.
No. Neither the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States can cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. If you have a positive viral test after being fully vaccinated, you likely are truly infected with COVID-19 (this is sometimes called a "breakthrough infection") and should isolate from others.
Call the COVID HOTLINE (312) 746-4835 or email email@example.com.