COVID-19 Testing

person with mask and goggles performing a covid-19 test to someone in their car

Testing is an important way to protect our communities and ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested (even if you are vaccinated).   

There are two types of tests available:  

  • viral test will tell if you have a current infection  
  • An antibody test will tell you if you had a previous infection (not included in NCDHHS’ total test numbers)  

Who should be tested?  

Fully vaccinated individuals should get tested if they:   

  • Are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.   
  • Have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 (3-5 days after exposure).  
  • Are travelling internationally and returning to the United States.   

Unvaccinated individuals should get tested if they:   

  • Are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.   
  • Have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19. If they are not experiencing symptoms, they should wait at least 6 days until after exposure.   
  • Take part in activities that put them at a higher risk for COVID-19 (travelling, attending large gatherings, etc.)   

How does testing work?   

A sample is collected from the inside of a person’s nose with a skinny swab that is long enough to reach the upper part of the throat, behind the nose. The swab won’t hurt, but it may be uncomfortable for a few seconds. The swab takes a few seconds to complete, and then the sample is tested.   

Test results times vary, depending on the type of test taken. Some test results are available in 15 minutes, some an hour, and others may take a few days. When you get tested, speak with the provider or laboratory that performed the test about when and how you will receive results.   

What should I do if my test is negative?  

  • If you tested because you had symptoms, you should stay home until you have no fever and have felt well for at least 24 hours. If you start experiencing symptoms or come into contact with someone who has tested positive you should get tested again.   
  • If you are vaccinated and boosted, you do not need to stay home if you are exposed to COVID but should wear a mask for 10 days.   
  • If you are unvaccinated or have gone more than 6 months without a vaccine (2 months for J&J shot), you should stay home for at least 5 days and then wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.   

What should I do if my test is positive?   

Isolate for at least 5 days after testing positive. If after day 5, your symptoms are improving or you have remained asymptomatic, you can leave isolation and wear a mask around others.   

Where can I get tested?  

There are several ways you can receive a COVID-19 test:   

  • Visit a no-cost community testing events   
  • Find a nearby test site   
  • Purchase an at-home tests at your local pharmacy  
  • Get a no-cost COVID-19 test home collection kit   
  • Call a healthcare provider  

Click here to find a local testing site  

How can I get at-home tests? 

All households in the U.S. can order a total of 16 free at-home test kits from the federal government. Tests will be shipped 7-12 days after ordering. CLICK HERE to submit an order.

Does health insurance cover COVID-19 testing?  

COVID-19 testing is generally covered by health insurance, but some locations may charge a fee. CLICK HERE to find a no-cost community testing site.  

Beginning January 15 2022, private insurance companies will be required to cover up to 8 at-home COVID tests kits per month. If you’re enrolled in private insurance, you will be able to either purchase home test kits for free under your insurance or submit receipts for the tests for reimbursement. Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plans are required to cover the cost of at-home tests fully. If you’re on Part B of Medicare, you will soon be able to get 8 free at-home COVID test kits per month.

What if I don’t have health insurance?  

Need more information?  

For more frequently asked questions, visit NCDHHS. If you didn’t find what you need on this page or need more information on local resources, dial 2-1-1 or 888-892-1162. Our call specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  


Last Updated 5/18/2022

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