Why Get Tested
Testing saves lives. Testing allows people to take precautions, like isolating, in a timely manner to stop the virus from spreading and seeking treatment to prevent severe illness. 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.
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. See the COVID-19 Symptom Decision Trees (PDF) for information on what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
- Test when you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 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.
- Test 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
Check with your health care provider or pharmacy if they offer testing. You can also check with your local health department or district. For additional information on testing sites, call the DOH information line: 1-800-525-0127. Language assistance is available.
- Over-the-counter test kits are available to purchase from online retailers and in pharmacies for convenient, at-home testing.
- The federal government offers free at-home tests shipped directly to you. Place an order online.
- DOH has funded several testing kiosks that dispense free COVID-19 tests. Find a location near you.
Types of Tests
The current tests available include rapid antigen tests (either point-of-care or at-home) and molecular tests (includes lab-based self-test kits and point-of-care tests). Supply of any test varies according to demand and manufacturer capacity.
- Tests provided through state supported testing programs such as the COVID-19 testing kiosks are free.
- Medicaid insurance covers at-home COVID tests through September 2024. Other insurance providers are no longer required by federal law to cover COVID-19 testing but check with your independent health plan as coverage may vary.
- 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.
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 COVID-19 Expired Test Kit Guidance answers important questions about COVID-19 tests and shelf-life extensions. You can expect COVID-19 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).
Stay home and isolate 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).
Determine if treatment is right for you. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and are at higher risk of severe illness may benefit from available COVID-19 therapeutics (medications). These treatments can help prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Treatment is most effective when started within 5 days from the start of symptoms. Check out DOH's website for more information on COVID-19 therapeutics.
- Free telehealth appointments in Washington for COVID-19 treatment with oral antivirals.
- Find COVID-19 Treatment locations (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services).
- Individuals who are uninsured, rely on Medicare, Medicaid, or VA insurance, or receive care from Indian Health Services can receive free access to COVID-19 and flu testing, telehealth, and treatment through the Home Test to Treat program.