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Apparently many of us are caught up in the minutiae of how to protect oneself and others from COVID-19. The one fact that seems to escape us is the lack of testing. Testing will not prevent COVID but it will identify people who may have it or perhaps have come in contact with the disease. The key to getting back to relative normal is: TESTING, TESTING, TESTING, TESTING. The second part is contact tracing if someone is positive for the virus-Contact tracing is the process of contacting the person(s) who the infected person has come in contact with.

Testing for COVID-1

Guidance on Interpreting COVID-19 Test Results pdf icon[610 KB]external icon: A guide for interpreting test results and determining what actions to take.

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 test tells you if you had a previous infection.

An antibody test may not be able to show if you have a current infection, because it can take 1-3 weeks after infection to make antibodies. We do not know yet if having antibodies to the virus can protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.

Who should be tested

To learn if you have a current infection, viral tests are used. But not everyone needs this test.

  • Most people will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and may not need to be tested.
  • CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are made by state and localexternal icon health departments or healthcare providers.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first.
  • You can also visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing.
  • Although supplies of tests are increasing, it may still be difficult to find a place to get tested.


  • If you test positive for COVID-19 by a viral test, know what protective steps to take if you are sick or caring for someone.
  • If you test negative for COVID-19 by a viral test, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. The test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing.

This is by no means a complete preventative method, there remains the hand washing, masking and other everyday precautions.

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