COVID Testing



Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star

At Home

Testing at home

Self-tests can be taken at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results. Self-tests are available in many pharmacies, stores, and online. Call or check online before heading to the store.

Your Healthcare Provider

Testing at Healthcare Provider

Contact your health care provider or medical home, especially if you are sick or think you have been exposed to COVID-19.

Test to Treat

Testing at Community-Based Site

The "Test to Treat" program is a nationwide initiative to ensure "on the spot" rapid access to free lifesaving COVID-19 treatments for everyone.

Community Health Centers

Testing at home

If you don’t have a doctor or insurance, contact your nearest community health center to get free or low-cost testing and health care. No patient will be turned away because of inability to pay. Insurance and ID are not required.

Pharmacies

Testing at a pharmacy

Visit these pharmacies’ websites or call and ask about low or no-cost testing:

Community-Based Testing

Testing at Community-Based Site

The City of Chicago has partnered with Rush University Medical Center and Shield Illinois to provide low or no-cost COVID-19 testing and through at-home testing kits.

Other Testing Sites:

Other Testing Sites

The State of Illinois operates community-based testing sites open to anyone, regardless of symptoms. Appointments are not required.


Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star

How to Find a COVID-19 Testing Site

Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star

Who Should Get Tested

  • People who have symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection
  • People who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 (see chart below)
  • People planning to participate in an indoor gathering
  • People who are not fully vaccinated who have participated in a high-risk activity such as a large gathering
  • People who are travelling (see Chicago Travel Advisory and international travel guidelines)

Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star

GETTING TESTED AFTER DEVELOPING SYMPTOMS

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 test positive:

  • You should stay home for 5 days, regardless of your vaccination status.
  • After 5 days, if your symptoms are improving and you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours without medication, you can leave your home, but you should continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days and avoid contact with high-risk people. 
  • You may remove your mask after day 6 and sooner than day 10 if you test negative on two sequential rapid antigen tests 48 hours apart.
  • If you have a fever or are still feeling sick, continue to stay home until 24 hours after your fever resolves and symptoms improve.
  • If your symptoms worsen, seek immediate attention from a healthcare provider.
GETTING TESTED AFTER EXPOSURE

If you have no symptoms, but have had contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should also get tested and protect others as follows:

  • If you have had confirmed or suspected close contact with someone who has COVID-19, instead of quarantine, you should wear a mask for 10 days around others in indoor settings and take a COVID-19 five days after the exposure, or sooner if you develop symptoms.
  • For additional information, please see the CDC's latest guidance on isolation and quarantine.

Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star

COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation Calculator

CDC developed a tool to help determine how long you need to isolate, quarantine, or take other steps to prevent spreading COVID-19. 

Click here and select "Get Started." 

CDC Isolation Calculator


Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star

COVID-19 Testing Frequently Asked Questions

Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests.

  • viral test tells you if you have a current infection.
  • An antibody test might 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.

  • Everyone, regardless of vaccination status should stay home for 5 days.

If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house, but must continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

  • If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves. If your symptoms worsen, seek immediate attention from a healthcare provider.

Be sure to tell all your close contacts they may need to get tested and quarantine.

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 may need to complete a quarantine period.

Vaccination Status

Quarantine and Testing Timeline

If you:

Have received a booster,

OR

Have completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months,

OR

Have completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months

  • Wear a mask around others for 10 days
  • Test on day 5, if possible.

If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.

If you:

Have completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and have not received a booster,

OR

Have completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and have not received a booster,

OR

If you have never been vaccinated against COVID-19

  • Stay home for 5 days. After that, continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.
  • If you can’t quarantine, you must wear a mask for 10 days.
  • Test on day 5, if possible

If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.

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.

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 after at least 5 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 COVID19.
  • 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.

No. Most people who test positive and complete their isolation period do not need a negative test to return to work. In fact, many tests (like PCRs) can remain positive for some weeks after the initial infection, even though the individual can no longer transmit to others, and thus they are not a good marker of whether someone is able to safely return to work. 

  • 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.
  • Due to changes in COVID-19 funding from the federal government, sites will now not be reimbursed for testing uninsured individuals. However, FQHCs will continue to test uninsured individuals for the time being, free of cost.
  • 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.

The Chicago Department of Public Health does not oversee or regulate testing operators. Healthcare providers and laboratories are regulated by state entities. Please see the following links for resources regarding state regulation for:

If you believe the testing site you visited is not operating properly, you may file complaints on the attorney general’s website: www.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov.

If you have symptoms of possible COVID-19 but you are unable to take a COVID-19 test, stay home at least 5 days and until symptoms improve, even if you are fully vaccinated. Most people have mild COVID-19 illness and can recover at home without medical care.  

If you have no symptoms or only mild symptoms and are having trouble finding a COVID-19 test, DO NOT SEEK TESTING IN EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS. Emergency departments are for emergencies. 

If you are experiencing emergency warning signs of COVID-19, such as trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, inability to wake, or discolored lips/nailbeds, SEEK MEDICAL CARE IMMEDIATELY. 

Many FDA authorized self-tests can be taken at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results. You can use self-tests regardless of vaccination status or whether or not you have symptoms. 

Information about the type of sample you must collect, how you must collect it, and tips on doing the test, is available at CDC: Self-Testing. Follow the manufacturer's instructions when performing the tests. 

Antigen tests can be less sensitive than molecular tests like PCRs. This means PCR tests may pick up infections where antigen tests might not.

If you test negative with an antigen test but suspect you may have COVID-19 because your are experiencing symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, continue to isolate at home, away from others, and consider a molecular test like a PCR test.

If an at-home COVID-19 test produces a positive result, you should consider this a true positive and stay at home for a minimum of 5 days. Please isolate and inform close contacts of your status so that they can seek out testing and quarantine as needed. There is no requirement from CDPH to get a "confirmatory test", though some facilities (e.g. employers, schools, daycare) may require additional documentation. 

If you are an older adult or someone living with an underlying condition, please contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible or if your symptoms become worse. 

If you are experiencing emergency warning signs of COVID-19, such as trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, inability to wake, or discolored lips/nailbeds, SEEK MEDICAL CARE IMMEDIATELY. 

The federal government, IDPH, and CDPH have been distributing rapid COVID-19 tests to high-risk settings such as skilled nursing facilities, homeless shelters and jails since 2020. CDPH has also distributed many thousands of rapid tests to community-based organizations, aldermanic offices, and food banks. 

You can also purchase COVID-19 rapid tests online or over the counter at a pharmacy or store. There are many different manufacturers, and many pharmacies and stores might have one option even if they are sold out another. Starting January 15, 2022, people with a health plan can buy these at no cost, either through reimbursement or free of charge through their insurance.  The test will either be free directly at the point of sale, if your health plan provides for direct coverage, or by reimbursement if you are charged for your test. Be sure to keep your receipt if you need to submit a claim to your insurance company for reimbursement. For more information, please see these Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.cms.gov/how-to-get-your-at-home-OTC-COVID-19-test-for-free 

While there is no requirement to report the results of over-the-counter at-home tests and self-testing results are not included in official COVID-19 case counts, self-tests are important because they can help you to follow public health advice, such as isolating, contact tracing, quarantining, and testing before gatherings to prevent COVID-19 spread. 

Some test types include opportunities to report results (e.g Apps, QR codes), however most do not. 

  • If you spend time in facilities or settings that are at high risk for COVID-19 spread, such as schools; long-term care; health care settings; correctional settings; or homeless shelters, you must report a positive self-test to the facility immediately. Facility management should have communicated to staff, students, and clients the importance of reporting positive self-testing results to the facility or setting. 
  • If you are taking a self-test for yourself and not connected to a setting with its own specific testing guidance, you are not required to report the results of the self-test to local or state public health agencies, but some test types have an app or QR code or other mechanism to report your test results which you may choose to use. 

There are several at-home COVID-19 tests authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the agency has confirmed that counterfeit tests are also circulating throughout the United States. Counterfeit tests are not authorized by the FDA and may not function properly.

At this time, the FDA has identified two counterfeit tests that are made to look a lot like Flowflex COVID-19 Test Kits and iHealth Antigen Rapid Test Kits. If you have either of those tests, look for the following signs that they may be counterfeit:

  • Poor print quality of text or images
  • Missing information on the outside box label, such as lot number, expiration date, barcode or QR code
  • Grammatical or spelling errors on the product label
  • Components of the kit do not match the content description on the box

Note: iHealth tests distributed by the Illinois Department of Health and any tests distributed directly through the Chicago Department of Public Health are not counterfeit.

Below is an example showing the difference between a counterfeit Flowflex test box and a legitimate one. The counterfeit box is missing the lot number, expiration date and QR code that is found on FDA-authorized Flowflex test boxes. Inside the box, it may also lack Spanish-language instructions.

Counterfeit and legitimate COVID-19 tests


Click here for more examples of counterfeit at-home COVID-19 tests, what to do if you have one and other testing resources. Before using an at-home COVID-19 test, make sure it’s on the FDA’s list of authorized at-home tests.

Stay at home while waiting for your COVID-19 test results. 

If you are an older adult or someone living with an underlying condition, please contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible or if your symptoms become worse. 

If you are experiencing emergency warning signs of COVID-19, such as trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, inability to wake, or discolored lips/nailbeds, SEEK MEDICAL CARE IMMEDIATELY. 


Questions about COVID-19 testing?

Call the CDPH COVID-19 Hotline at 312.746.4835.


Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star Chicago Star