COVID Testing

Updated as of 7/30/2021

The best way to get tested is by calling your healthcare provider or conveniently ordering self-administered at-home tests. COVID-19 testing is also offered in many pharmacies and healthcare centers. If you don’t have a regular doctor or medical insurance, locate a community health center. For a fee travelers and airport employees can also get tested at the O'Hare or Midway testing facilities.

 

Lolla Testing Guidelines

Locate Community Health Center 

City of Chicago Community-based testing sites

Traveler testing

Full list of testing sites

Pediatric COVID-19 Testing Sites

At-home tests

Over the counter (no prescription needed): The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized several at-home tests that may be purchased in pharmacies without a prescription and collected and even tested directly by a consumer in their own home (AbbottEllumeLabCorp). Fully "at-home tests", such as those made by Abbott and Ellume, 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. If you are performing testing in your home, communicate your results to your healthcare provider. If the at-home test has an app that allows you to report your results, complete all the information for submission of results to the health department.

Mail in test (virtual prescription needed): 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. 


  • At home tests
    • Over the counter (no prescription needed): The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized several at-home tests that may be purchased in pharmacies without a prescription and collected and even tested directly by a consumer in their own home (AbbottEllumeLabCorp). Fully "at-home tests", such as those made by Abbott and Ellume, 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. If you are performing testing in your home, communicate your results to your healthcare provider. If the at-home test has an app that allows you to report your results, complete all the information for submission of results to the health department.
    • Mail in test (virtual prescription needed): 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. 
  • Your health care provider: Residents are best served when they’re tested by their health care provider, because your health care provider is familiar with your medical history and can provide counseling that helps you understand exactly what your test result means. If you develop any symptoms or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, call your doctor and ask if you need to be tested. Your doctor will either perform the test at their office or will refer you to a testing site. 
  • Community health centers: 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. 
  • Testing Map: 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. 
  • Traveler testing: 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. Please note these testing sites are not a part of CDPH's community-based testing sites.

Get tested if: 

  • You havesymptoms of COVID-19such as fever or chills, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, muscle or body aches, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, even if you are fully vaccinated.
  • You have been incontact with someone who is ill, especially if it's someone you live with, a friend or ​a coworker. Even if you are fully vaccinated, get tested 3-5 days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings until they receive a negative test result.
  • You are unvaccinated and have recentlyparticipated in a high risk activity, such as attending a large gathering or crowded space. 

  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not need to get tested following an exposure as long as they do not develop new symptoms.

  • If you have symptoms, get tested right away. Make an appointment in advance and make sure to stay 6 feet from others and wear a face mask. 
  • If you don’t have symptoms, get tested 3-5 days after your last contact with the sick person or since your last high-risk activity. 
COVID-19 Testing FAQs

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 your body develops an immune response—the goal of vaccination—there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

You should get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms, have been in contact with someone who is ill, even if you are fully vaccinated. You should get tested if  you are unvaccinated and have recently participated in a high risk activity, such as attending a large gathering or crowded space. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not need to get tested following an exposure as long as they do not develop new symptoms.

While you wait for your test results you should stay home and avoid contact with others.

  • 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 be in 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 full quarantine period. 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). A 14-day quarantine is the safest of the 3 options, and should be followed if able. Stay home, check your temperature twice a day 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 molecular test result for COVID-19, we recommend that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has resolved without the use of fever- reducing medications and there is improvement in your symptoms.

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

  • viral testtells 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.

Whether you test positive or negative for COVID-19, you should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others.

If you test positive for COVID-19, know what protective steps to take if you are sick.

  • Most people have mild COVID-19 illness and can recover at home without medical care. Contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms are getting worse or if you have questions about your health.

If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. This does not mean you will not get sick:

  • A negative test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing or that your sample was collected too early in your infection.
  • You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and then get infected and spread the virus to others.
  • If you have symptoms later, you may need another test to determine if you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

If you get tested even though you don’t have symptoms, you should continue to follow recommended physical (social) distancing practices, such as staying home and staying at least 6 feet away from others when you are outside your home until your test results are back. You should also use a cloth face covering whenever you leave the home and are around others that are not part of your household. If you were a contact to a positive case of COVID-19 you should remain in quarantine at your home and away from others until your results are back and then follow the guidance below based on what those results show.

If you are symptomatic but have a negative test result for COVID-19, we recommend that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has resolved without the use of fever- reducing medications and there is improvement in your symptoms.

If you got tested due to close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you must still complete your quarantine period, even if you had a negative test. 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). A 14-day quarantine is the safest of the 3 options, and should be followed if able.

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 be in quarantine. 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/TraceCOVID.

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.

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.