A DOCTOR’S NOTE ON COVID-19 TESTING
Dr. Erika Flores Uribe, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services
How does COVID-19 testing help me prevent the spread of the virus?
Getting tested for COVID-19 helps you know if you have the coronavirus and prevents you from spreading it to your family, friends, and community. If you test positive, isolate yourself so that you don’t spread it. Let people you have been around know, so that they too can quarantine and get tested. This is how we can stop the virus from spreading and prevent future COVID-19 surges.
Are different types of COVID-19 tests different in how accurate they are? If so, which one is the best one?
There are two main types of COVID-19 tests: molecular and antigen. Molecular tests – commonly called “PCR tests” – are generally more accurate. They are processed in a laboratory and you’ll receive your results in a few days. Antigen tests – which are sometimes referred to as “rapid tests” – can be processed anywhere and you’ll get your results in about 20 minutes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends taking multiple antigen tests over several days to improve the chance of identifying infections.
And remember – no matter which type of COVID-19 test you choose, you must provide a good quality specimen so that you can get accurate results. If a trained healthcare professional is collecting your sample, that will help ensure it’s a high-quality sample. If you’re doing your own nose or mouth swab, make sure you carefully follow all the instructions.
How can I get tested if my doctor’s office doesn’t offer COVID-19 tests or doesn’t have any appointments available?
If you can’t get an appointment or if you aren’t able to get in touch with your doctor, go to covid19.lacounty.gov/testing to find a no-cost testing site close to you. Although appointments aren’t needed at many government run testing locations, making an appointment helps you wait less.
If I’m already vaccinated against COVID-19, should I still get tested regularly even if I don’t have symptoms?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 get tested, whether or not you are vaccinated or have had the virus before. And don’t forget – even if you’re vaccinated, you should get tested 3 to 5 days after having been around someone who may have or is confirmed to have COVID-19.