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There are two kinds of COVID-19 tests

There are two types of diagnostic tests: tests, such as RT-PCR tests, that detect the virus’s genetic material, and antigen tests that detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus.

  • Diagnostic tests which detect virus and tell you if you have a current infection
  • Antibody tests which might tell you if you had a past infection

For more information about testing and to download posters and infographics, visit the FDA or CDC website.


Frequent testing for COVID-19 helps prevent spread of the virus among all people, vaccinated and not.

Reasons for testing include:

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms
  • At least 5 days after known or suspected close contact to COVID-19
  • For screening (schools, workplaces, congregate settings, etc.)
  • Before and after travel
  • When asked by a healthcare professional or public health official

To get your test result, please check with the group that performed your test, such as your healthcare provider, pharmacy or state health department testing site. How long it will take to get your test results depends on the test used and where you receive your test.

Follow CDC Guidelines for Isolation & Quarantine.

If Positive Result

If Negative Result

  • If up to update on vaccines: return to normal activities. Wear a mask indoors in areas where the COVID-19 Community Level is high.
  • If not up to date on vaccines and have symptoms or exposure: quarantine for at least 5 days.
  • If not up to date on vaccines and have no symptoms or exposure: return to normal activities. Take steps to get up to date on vaccines to protect yourself and others.

A variety of places offer walk-in and drive-thru (or mobile) testing for COVID-19. These include:

  • Primary care providers: contact your primary care provider
  • Cook County Health: offers free testing for adults and children age 6 months and older. Please call 312-864-2749 to register for a test
  • CDPH Community Sites: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/sites/covid-19/home/testing.html
  • IDPH Community Sites: https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/testing.html
    • If you do not have health insurance COVID-19 testing is covered for all uninsured Illinois residents regardless of citizenship and immigration status through these free community-based testing sites.
  • Pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens – visit websites for more information. Walgreens is offering free, contactless COVID-19 testing for patients ages 3 and up at select locations. Use the map on their website to find testing near you.

What is a Self-Test or At-Home Test?

Self-tests for COVID-19 give rapid results and can be taken anywhere, regardless of your vaccination status or whether or not you have symptoms.

  • They detect current infection and are sometimes also called “home tests,” “at-home tests,” or “over-the-counter (OTC) tests.”
  • They give your result in a few minutes and are different from laboratory-based tests that may take days to return your result.
  • Self-tests along with vaccination, wearing a well-fitted mask, and physical distancing, help protect you and others by reducing the chances of spreading COVID-19.
  • Self-tests do not detect antibodies which would suggest a previous infection and they do not measure your level of immunity.



Free In-Home Testing Resources

  • Visit www.covid.gov/tests  or call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY: 1-888-720-7489)
  • Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 2 sets of 4 free at-⁠home tests. If you already ordered your first set, order a second today.

Project Act (Rockefeller Center) – Accesscovidtests.org

Free, rapid, at-home COVID-19 test kits to residents of eligible communities (zip codes) while supplies last.

You can also buy tests online or in pharmacies and retail stores. Private health insurance may reimburse the cost of purchasing self-tests. Visit FDA’s website for a list of authorized tests.


Updated July 19, 2022, 1:00 PM