In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized more than 300 COVID-19 tests and sample collection devices for use in laboratories, health care settings, and at home. As of Aug. 27, over 400 tests and collection devices have been approved. These include:
- At-home antigen tests: You collect the sample and do the testing yourself. Results are available within minutes. You can learn more about best practices for performing at-home tests on the CDC website. If you test positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test, please report the test to your primary care provider. If you don’t have a primary care provider, contact your local public health authority. Follow public health instructions regarding isolation.
- At-home collection kits: You collect the sample at home and send it to a certified laboratory.
- Point-of-care tests: The health care provider collects the sample. Antigen tests can provide results in minutes. Molecular tests are sent to a certified laboratory.
To learn more about the different types of COVID-19 testing available, visit the FDA website and read OHA’s guide to COVID-19 testing.
Which tests are the most accurate?
Molecular (NAAT and PCR) and antigen tests detect if you have an active COVID-19 infection. Samples for diagnostic tests are typically collected with a nasal or throat swab, or by spitting saliva into a tube.
Molecular testing is considered the most accurate form of COVID-19 testing. It detects genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19. These tests are processed by certified laboratories, with most results available in 2 to 5 business days.
Antigen testing is faster, but not as accurate. It detects proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19.
When to get a test
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 within the past 14 days, you should get tested regardless of your vaccination status. Close contact means being within six feet of someone for 15 minutes or more, with or without a mask or face covering. It’s best to wait 3 to 5 days after close contact before taking a test. Learn more by reading OHA’s testing fact sheet.
Screening testing is for people who do not have symptoms or are not known to have been exposed to COVID-19. This is recommended for certain unvaccinated individuals in congregate settings, such as long-term care facility staff and students in K-12 classrooms.
What COVID-19 tests are being used in schools?
ODHS|OHA’s testing program with the Oregon Department of Education uses:
- BinaxNOW point-of-care antigen testing for diagnostic testing in students or staff members who develop symptoms of COVID-19 during the school year or who have been exposed to COVID-19 in the classroom. This produces a COVID-19 test result in 15 minutes.
- At-home or in-classroom sample collection kits for screening testing. These samples are mailed to regional laboratory partners for processing, with results available 24 to 36 hours from the time they arrive at the laboratory.
How to get tested or get a test
Ask your health care provider. Providers can determine whether you need a test. They will also make sure you get the most appropriate test and that you know what the results mean.
Use the Castlight interactive test locator to find testing locations near you. The interactive locator shows where to find at-home tests, local testing clinics, as well as health care providers and pharmacies that offer COVID-19 testing. You should call ahead before seeking a test to confirm testing availability and hours.
Visit your local health county health department website to find other local opportunities that may not be listed in the statewide locator. You also call 211 for help finding a testing site near you.
Connect with a community organization near you. OHA works with local and culturally specific community organizations to host testing events that are safe, comfortable and accessible.
For limited free community testing events, visit https://www.doineedacovid19test.com/ and select “Oregon” for locations.
Please do not visit an emergency department for testing unless your symptoms require urgent evaluation. Our emergency departments are under significant strain because of the current surge in COVID-19.