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Updated 12/22/2021

There are two kinds of COVID-19 tests

  • 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

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. 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: 

  • Having symptoms of COVID-19 (even if you are vaccinated).
  • People who have had a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (even if you are vaccinated). 
  • Screening in a school, workplace, and before or after travel. 


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. 

  • If you test positive for COVID-19know what protective steps to take if you are sick. See updated information on the CDC website. 
  • If you test negative for COVID-19this only means that the virus was not detected by that particular test at that specific time. 
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19: 
  • You may have received a false negative test result and still might have COVID-19. You should isolate away from others. 
  • Contact your healthcare provider about your symptoms, especially if they worsen, about follow-up testing, and how long to isolate.
  • If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 but were exposed to COVID-19:
  • You are likely not infected but may still get sick
  • If you are unvaccinated, you need to self-quarantine for 14 days after your most recent exposure. 


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 – testing for CCH patients and staff; requires a doctor’s order for COVID-19 testing at testing tents outside of both Stroger Hospital at 1969 W. Ogden Avenue and Provident Hospital at 500 E. 51st Please be sure to bring your doctor’s order with you. 
  • IDPH Community-Based Testing Sites 
  • 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. 


When to Consider Self-testing 

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a self-test before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household, or if you live with someone at higher risk for severe COVID-19. 
  • Self-testing is one of many risk-reduction strategies—including getting vaccinatedwearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, and washing your hands—that protect you and others by reducing the chances of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. 
  • Self-tests can be used whether you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and regardless if you are having symptoms of COVID-19. 

Where to Get a Self-test 

  • COVID-19 self-tests are currently available over-the-counter in many locations, including pharmacies, some community health centers, and online. 
  • As self-tests become more widely available in all communities, more people will have access to self-testing. 

How to Use and Interpret a Self-test 

Additional Resources 


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), is providing rapid antigen tests (BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 test) to the Illinois Department of Public Health who is distributing tests to local health departments, including the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH), as well as directly to designated sites in suburban Cook County. The BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 test is a lateral flow test that detects the presence of protein antigens from SARS-CoV-2 in individuals suspected of COVID-19 by their healthcare provider within the first seven days of symptom onset. This U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorized diagnostic test does not require any instrumentation to test the samples and instead determines a COVID-19 negative or positive result in about 15 minutes using a test card. 

CCDPH is distributing the rapid antigen tests (BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 test) for use in suburban Cook County. Organizations in suburban Cook County who are currently testing or have the capacity to use rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 are encouraged to request rapid point-of-care tests (BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 test) using CCDPH’s application link. CCDPH will be prioritizing distribution of rapid point-of-care tests (BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 test) to vulnerable and high-risk populations based on COVID-19 surveillance data for suburban Cook County, CCDPH’s COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index, and State and Federal guidance. 

For organizations interested in learning more about available rapid antigen test resources, please visit the rapid antigen test request process webpage. 

Schools are eligible for free SHIELD and BinaxNOW tests. Click here for more information.  

Long term care facilities can email [email protected] and request to be added to the direct distribution list. 

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) that receive operational funding through HRSA’s Health Center Program are eligible for direct shipments. Eligible FQHCs should be able to request a supply of Quidel tests by following the instructions provided by HRSA. This is the same process and online platform that is used to request vaccines. 

The Midwest Coordination Center (MCC) is another testing resource for schools, nursing homes, shelters, and child/youth care centers: https://testedandprotected.org 


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