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COVID: When to test for coronavirus and how long it takes to get results



It can take more than a week to get your coronavirus results back.

James Martin / CNET

For the latest news and information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

With coronavirus cases continue to grow in the US and around the world, and forecasts that more people may become infected as we enter flu season, there are many questions about who to test and how long it can take to find out the results.

Fortunately, many states have made it easier to get coronavirus samples than during the first months of the pandemic, but how long it takes to get your results back varies depending on where you go and what test is administered.

In most cases, the test facility should inform you of a time frame for recovering your coronavirus results, but this can vary from hours to up to a week or longer, especially if confusion over flulike versus coronavirus-like symptoms causes delays in test results. Here is what we know about when we will be tested, how long it takes to be tested and how to find out your results.

When should I get a coronavirus test?

If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-1

9, contact your doctor or local healthcare provider for further instructions. Depending on how long it has been since the exposure, you may be asked to take an immediate test or book an appointment.

The CDC recommends that you receive a coronavirus test for the following reasons:

  • If you experience symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If you have had close contact with someone – within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes – with a positive COVID-19 test.
  • If you have been asked by your healthcare provider to test.

Where can I get a COVID-19 test?

Now that tests are more widely available, it should be easier to find a test site near you.

Some areas have drop-in test centers where you can go up. Others may require a doctor’s appointment and a meeting with a test facility, an action that can help avoid crowds that would overwhelm the test site and staff. Contact your local test center to get a sense of what to expect. It is likely that you will do so must wear face mask to be tested.

If you are a high risk patient or experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately. Call your doctor for a referral to a test clinic in your area.

How is the coronavirus test?

When you go to get screened for coronavirus either you are directed to a clinic or to a test site where you go to a doctor. If you are waiting for a medical facility, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wear face protection to prevent the virus from spreading to others. Note that many facilities may require you to wear a face mask.






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A common type of testing for COVID-19 today is a nasal stick that is similar to screening for other influenza viruses. In the earliest COVID-19 nasal tests, the doctor would remove the inside of the nose for several seconds with a long disposable tool that looks like a giant Q-tip and reaches the upper part of the throat. Recently, a shallower nasal stick is also administered in one or both nostrils.

Antibody test, which requires a blood test, is also more accessible. That test works like other blood draws, where a doctor sterilizes your arm (usually around the folds of the inner elbow), inserts a needle into your vein and takes a small blood sample.

No matter how you are tested, the sample is sealed and sent to a laboratory to determine if you currently have or have ever had COVID-19.

When will I receive my COVID-19 test results?

In theory, it only takes a few hours for a lab to determine if you have acquired coronavirus. But depending on where you live, it can take up to a week or more to get your results back. It also depends on how many tests have been administered at your site and where you got the test.

Some people may have their tests prioritized, for example if your hospital requires a test before undergoing any kind of medical procedure.

In all areas where mass numbers of people are tested for COVID-19, backups at processing plants can lead to longer waiting times for results. The same applies if the laboratory that processes your test is far from your test facility – transporting the samples and processing them will increase the time.

Some Walgreens sites may get your test results back within hours of administration. However, it depends on the test kit used.

When your results are available, your doctor will contact you to let you know if you have tested positive or negative for COVID-19. You can also receive a letter in the mail describing your results.

What happens if I test positive for coronavirus?

If the results show that you have been infected with COVID-19, be sure to notify everyone you have come in close contact with in the last two weeks. Ask your doctor for the next step. We also have some guidelines for take care of yourself if you are infected with the virus.

Contact tracking, which is a system that helps identify people you have come in close contact with, can help stop the spread to others.

The CDC says you can leave the house again when you have not had a fever for at least 24 hours (without medication), symptoms such as cough have improved and at least 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared, but you should seek medical advice is safe to leave the house.

For more information on coronavirus testing, here is how to find a coronavirus test site near you and check waiting times and who qualifies for COVID-19 testing.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health problem.


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