Important updates to the Say Yes! COVID Test (SYCT) program: As of March 13, 2023, ordering eligibility for Washington’s Say Yes! COVID Test program has changed to focus on Washington communities that are most in need. Please visit the SYCT website to see if you are eligible to place a single monthly order. The program will end on May 11, 2023.
Why get tested
Testing saves lives. Testing allows people to take precautions, like isolating, in a timely manner to stop the virus from spreading; infected people without symptoms can still spread the virus. Testing also helps public health officials identify and respond to outbreaks, and to track new variants of the virus. Testing is an important component in helping resume normal activities.
When to get tested
- Test when you feel sick. COVID-19 has a wide range of symptoms, so if you’re not feeling well, it’s best to get tested as soon as possible.
- Test when you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Get tested immediately if you’re showing symptoms. If you’re not showing symptoms, follow the guidance in What To Do if You Were Potentially Exposed to Someone With COVID-19 (PDF) for when to get tested.
- Businesses and event spaces in Washington may have testing and/or vaccination requirements before entering an establishment or event. Call ahead or check their website before you visit.
- You may need to test before and/or after traveling. Check the CDC’s latest travel guidance.
- When you’re going to gather with a group of people, especially those who are at risk of severe disease or may not be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
Who can test?
Anyone can get tested for COVID-19, no matter your age. DOH updated COVID-19 testing guidance as of Dec. 5, 2022, to allow the safe use of at-home rapid antigen testing for children under 2 years of age. We recommend that children under 2 years of age are tested by a parent or caregiver. Please see the instructions for use that come with the test for specific directions on testing children. For example, iHealth instructions state: “With children, the maximum depth of insertion into the nostril may be less than 3/4 of an inch, and you may need to have a second person to hold the child’s head while swabbing.”
Where to get tested
The WA State Department of Health website maintains a directory of testing sites available in each county, with operating hours and requirements. For additional information on testing sites, call 2-1-1. Over the counter test kits are also available for ordering and in pharmacies for convenient, at-home testing.
Types of tests
The current tests available include rapid antigen tests, molecular tests (both lab-based and point of care), and some home self-tests. Supply of any particular test varies according to demand and manufacturer capacity.
- Insurance providers will now reimburse families for up to eight tests per month. Learn more about insurance reimbursement.
- There are no out of pocket cost for tests performed at county or state-supported test sites. Many tests, particularly for people experiencing symptoms, can be billed to insurance or subsidized by the Department of Health.
- You can also purchase an at-home test at local or online retailers and pharmacies. No insurance or prescription is required.
How to take an at-home test
- It’s important to follow the instructions inside the kit of rapid at-home tests for the most accurate results. Several brands also offer video instructions. For more best practices, check out the CDC’s tips for at-home testing.
- False negatives can occur with rapid tests. Some testing kits may include two tests (you should follow the instructions on the box for when to test). See Interim SARS-CoV-2 Self-Testing Guidance (PDF) for guidance on using repeat testing if you test negative.
- For more on how testing works, visit our testing frequently asked questions page.
- WA Notify users who use a self-test (also called at-home tests) and test positive for COVID-19 can request a verification code to anonymously notify other WA Notify users that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Visit the how to notify others if you test positive for COVID-19 with a self-test section on WANotify.org.
What to do if you think your tests are expired
Before you throw away your expired COVID-19 tests, be sure to check if the shelf life was extended. This one-page information sheet has expiration details by test type, as well as helpful information on quality controls to ensure the test is working properly. You can expect the tests to continue to receive expiration date extensions as additional performance data is tracked by the FDA.
If you have questions, check out our frequently asked questions about expired COVID-19 tests (PDF).
When to isolate
You may need to isolate prior to taking your test and after receiving your results. See the COVID-19 Symptom Decision Trees (PDF) for information on what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms. See What To Do if You Test Positive for COVID-19 (PDF) for information on what to do if you test positive, including isolating.
Stay home as much as possible if you have symptoms. If you test positive for COVID-19, the good news is there are steps you can take to help keep yourself and others safe. Further information can be found here: What To Do if You Test Positive for COVID-19 (PDF).
- Free telehealth appointments in Washington for COVID-19 treatment with oral antivirals
- Have You Just Tested Positive for COVID-19? (PDF)
- Test to Treat program (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)