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About COVID-19 Testing

What you need to know about testing for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Should I be tested?

You should get a test for COVID-19 if:

  • You develop any symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, or
  • You are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

If you are a resident of a community at higher risk for COVID-19 spread, you are encouraged to get a COVID-19 test even if you have no symptoms. See a list of communities and learn more at www.mass.gov/StopTheSpread.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, please contact your healthcare provider and a test site near you to schedule a test. You can also check your symptoms online.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and may include:

  • Fever, chills or shaking chills
  • Signs of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, lowered oxygen saturation)
  • Fatigue, sore throat, headache, body aches/myalgia, or new loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Other less common symptoms can include gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), rash, and inflammatory conditions such as “COVID toes”.
  • In elderly, chronically ill, or debilitated individuals such as residents of a long-term care facility, symptoms of COVID-19 may be subtle such as alterations in mental status or in blood glucose control

How do I know if I am a close contact of someone with COVID-19?

  • You are a close contact of a COVID-19 positive person if you were within 6 feet of them while indoors, for at least 15 minutes, while they were symptomatic or within the 48 hours before symptom onset.
  • You are also a close contact if you were within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes of someone while indoors, who tested positive for COVID-19 in the 48 hours before their test was taken or anytime in the 10 days after the test.
  • According to CDC guidance, individuals are less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 during outdoor activities, even without the use of masks.

Where can I get a test?

Visit Find a COVID-19 Test to search for a testing site near you.

Many sites may require pre-screening, a referral and/or an appointment. Please contact the site prior to arrival.

Learn about the free drive-through Express COVID-19 Testing Sites in Massachusetts.

Is there a cost?

COVID-19 testing for symptomatic individuals and close contacts is usually covered by insurance and available at no cost to you.

Additionally, many test sites in the Commonwealth test uninsured individuals for free. If you are uninsured, please call your local test site to confirm before making an appointment.

 

What do I do if my test is positive?

If you test positive for COVID-19, we’re here to help. It can take a few days to get your test results and while you are waiting, you should stay home and limit your contact with anyone else. Learn more about quarantining

When you get your results, a provider will contact you and talk with you about next steps. Here's what you need to know:

Stay home except to get medical care

  • Stay home. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
  • Self-isolation means separating yourself from others to keep your germs from spreading.
    • How to Self-isolate
    • CDC Isolation Guidance
    • If you have questions about isolation or quarantine, you can call your Local Board of Health or the Department of Public Health’s On-call Epidemiologists at 617-983-6800.

Monitor your symptoms

  • Follow the advice of your doctor or local health department. If you feel like you need medical care, call ahead before visiting your doctor.
  • Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, call 9-1-1 to seek emergency medical care immediately:
    • Trouble breathing
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion
    • Inability to wake or stay awake
    • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Notify your close contacts

  • Call your close contacts to notify them of your positive result if you are comfortable doing so
  • Suggest they stay home and limit contact with anyone else and they will be contacted by public health
  • Encourage them to get tested at a COVID-19 Testing Site

close contact is someone with whom you have been within 6 feet of for at least 10-15 minutes while symptomatic or within 48 hours before symptom onset. A close contact can also be someone who had direct contact with the droplets of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on) while not wearing a mask or face covering.

Answer the call from contact tracers

  • You may get a call from a contact tracer with your local Board of Health or the MA COVID Team. Answer the call so they can reach out to people who have been in close contact with you and provide them with resources. It’s the best way to protect your family, friends and community. 
  • The phone calls may indicate the call is from your local Board of Health or will use the prefix 833 and 857 and your phone will say the call is from “MA COVID Team.”

What are the different types of COVID-19 testing?

There are 2 types of COVID-19 testing: Virus Testing and Antibody Testing.

Virus testing is the type that tells you if you currently have COVID-19. These tests are typically done using a nasal swab, oral swab, or saliva sample, and then sent to a lab.

  • Virus testing is sometimes also called “PCR" testing.
  • BinaxNOW Antigen tests are rapid antigen tests which can be performed at point-of-care to supplement molecular testing and help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. BinaxNOW Antigen Test Abstract | Graph

Antibody testing is the type that helps you find out whether you may have been infected with COVID-19 in the past. This is a blood test that looks for antibodies, which are proteins in your blood that fight infections. Antibody testing is important to help us understand how many people have been exposed to the virus.

  • Important to know: at this time, most people don’t need antibody tests and they should not be used to guide decisions on whether to stop isolation or return to work. Currently, there is no proof that antibodies in your blood means that you are immune from further infection with COVID-19.

Is testing available in nursing homes?

Additional resources

Contact

Phone

Informational and referral hotline 211

24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are free and confidential. Interpreter services are available in multiple languages.

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