Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing

Testing for COVID-19 is available in many locations across Fairfax Health District. If you need a test, contact your health care provider or visit one of the sites listed here.

Facts about COVID-19 Testing in Fairfax County

With an increasing demand on proof of negative COVID-19 tests by employers, organizations, schools, and community groups, here are six facts you need to know about how and where to get a COVID-19 test when you need one. 
  1. There are many reasons to get tested – including work, school, travel, participation in high-risk activities, and more – but make testing a priority if you have COVID-19 symptoms, or if you have been in close contact with someone known or suspected to have COVID-19. Use the CDC’s COVIDCHECKER to help you decide when to seek testing and medical care. 
  2. There are different types of COVID-19 tests, so do your homework and make sure you use the one required for your purpose.
  3. Many places in Fairfax offer testing. You can search for a location on the VDH website or see a list below. The Health Department offers testing for people who are sick, identified as close contacts, and those returning from international travel.
  4. Free and low-cost testing is available. See testing info for those without insurance below.
  5. If you are using an at-home test, be sure it is authorized by the FDA and follow all directions.
  6. The Virginia Department of Health announced expanded testing capacity. The Fairfax County Health Department is planning to deploy its mobile laboratory and host testing events in the coming weeks. Information about these mobile locations will be posted here. While vaccination is the most effective strategy to protect individuals, their family and their community, testing remains an important tool to help identify individuals with illness and monitor trends in COVID-19 infection. 

Learn more about testing updates from the Virginia Department of Health. If you have questions, contact our call center at 703-267-3511 (Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.).

Who Should Get Tested

Laboratory staff conduct COVID-19 testingYou should get tested for COVID-19 if you have any symptoms or if you spent time with someone who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 — even if you have had the COVID-19 vaccine.

You should get tested for COVID-19 if:

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of your vaccine status
  • You have had a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of  you vaccine status
    • If you are fully vaccinated: get tested 3-5 days after exposure, and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until you receive a negative test result.
    • If you are not fully vaccinated: quarantine and get tested immediately after being identified, and, if negative, tested again in 5–7 days after last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop during quarantine.
  • You are returning from international travel.
  • You are not fully vaccinated and have taken part in activities that put you at higher risk for COVID-19 because you cannot physically distance as needed to avoid exposure. For example, travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in crowded or poorly-ventilated indoor settings.
  • You are not fully vaccinated and you are prioritized for expanded community screening for COVID-19 
  • You are not fully vaccinated and have been asked or referred to get testing by your school, workplace, healthcare provider, state, tribal, local  or territorial health department.

You do not need to get tested if:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) self-checker or the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) COVIDCHECK are available to help make decisions on when to call their doctor or seek appropriate medical care regarding COVID-19.

 

How to Get Tested

Call your Primary Care Provider

Call your primary care provider to discuss your symptoms and get scheduled for a test. Some primary care providers are set up to test their patients on site. Others are referring patients for testing by appointment at other locations such as Respiratory Clinics and drive-up testing sites. Your primary care provider will talk with you about the best place for you to get tested. They will also let you know how you can get your test results.

Call a Clinic

  • If you don’t have a primary care provider, there are still options for testing.
  • Places such as urgent care centers, community health centers, and community-based clinics across the state evaluate patients who may have COVID-19 and do testing. Most clinics are set up to swab patients for testing on-site and many offer drive-up and walk-up testing options.
  • Some facilities may require you to call ahead before visiting their location. 
  • The clinic will let you know how to get your test results.

Find More Testing Sites 

COVID-19 Testing is Available in Fairfax COVID-19 testing sites are available in Fairfax and the surrounding jurisdictions. Use this document to find a testing site in the Fairfax Health District or search for a testing site in Virginia near you.

Note: this may not include every site currently offering testing in Fairfax Health District and testing may be offered for a cost. Download a copy in English or Spanish.

 

 

 

Call the Health Department

Residents who exhibit COVID-19-like symptoms and do not have access to testing options available in the community may schedule an appointment for testing at a Health Department clinicCall the call center at 703-324-7404 to schedule a testing appointment.

Testing at the Health Department is reserved for people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, those identified as close contacts, and for those returning from international travel. Testing is not for routine testing, pre-travel, return to work or school, or proof of negative test for other purposes. 

 

If You Don’t Have Insurance

Many of the locations in the document above offer testing for uninsured patients. If you do not have a primary doctor, and you are concerned that you have symptoms of COVID-19, you can contact HealthWorks (703-443-2000) or Neighborhood Health (703-535-5568) to be evaluated and schedule a testing appointment. New patients are accepted with or without insurance and on a sliding scale fee if low-income and uninsured. Priority is given to patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

HealthWorks provides COVID-19 testing free for uninsured patients who meet eligibility for the sliding scale fee and do not already have another primary doctor. Patients should call 703-443-2000 to get a telehealth evaluation by a medical provider prior to scheduling a test.

Neighborhood Health provides COVID-19 testing free for uninsured patients who meet eligibility for the sliding scale fee. Patients should call 703-535-5568 to get a telehealth evaluation by a medical provider prior to scheduling a test.

Inova Cares Clinics for Families provides primary care services for patients with Medicaid or low-income uninsured patients up to 400% Federal Poverty Guideline and offers limited COVID-19 testing.

The Fairfax Health District has many low-cost health care resources for individuals who lack health insurance. See: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Health Care Options for the Uninsured

You can also call our Coordinated Services Planning service at 703-222-0880, TTY 711 (Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m - 4:30 p.m.) to talk with someone about your needs and receive advice on services available to you.

 

When Will I get my Test Results?

3 Key Steps to Take While Waiting for Your COVID-19 Test ResultThe time between when a specimen is collected and when you receive your results can vary depending on the laboratory conducting the testing. With the exception of some rapid tests, it could take up to a few days, or sometimes longer to get your result, so be sure to check with your provider in advance.

While you are waiting for your test results:

  1. Stay at home and isolate yourself if you: 
    • Have symptoms of COVID-19
    • Are not fully vaccinated and are recommended to quarantine following an exposure or returning from traveling.
  2. Think about the people you have recently been around.
  3. Answer the phone if we call. Learn more about contact investigations.

See 3 Key Steps to Take While Waiting for Your COVID-19 Test Result to learn more about what to do while you are waiting.

 

 

What Happens If I Test Positive?

  • Your name and contact information will be shared with public health staff at the Fairfax County Health Department to perform a case investigation.
  • Someone from the Health Department will call you to discuss your illness, answer questions and provide guidance on how to take care of yourself and prevent spreading COVID-19 to other people. Recommendations will include staying home in a separate room (“isolation”), wearing a facemask or cloth face covering if anyone needs to be in the room, washing your hands frequently, and cleaning high-touch surfaces (doorknobs, railings, phones, counters, faucet handles) regularly.
  • The Health Department also will ask you for a list of people you have had close contact with during the period when you could spread the infection. These close contacts also will be asked to stay home and away from others.
  • Please see When to Isolate and When to Quarantine for more information about how long you and your contacts should stay away from others.
  • If any of your symptoms get worse or if you develop new symptoms, call your healthcare provider.

 

What Happens If I Test Negative?

  • Your name and contact information will be shared with public health staff at the Fairfax County Health Department.
  • If you test negative for COVID-19, you most likely were not infected at the time of your test. You may have another illness. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and whatever treatment they prescribe.
  • It is also possible that you were tested very early in your infection and you could test positive later. Or you could be exposed later and get sick. This means that even with a negative test, it is important that if a new illness develops, you contact your healthcare provider and may need to be tested again.
  • If there is a known exposure and your first test is negative, you should be retested 5-7 days after your last exposure or immediately if you develop symptoms. 
  • To prevent spreading any infection you have, wash your hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, practice social distancing (six feet between you and other people), and while you are sick, stay home from work.

 

What Should Employers Know?

Employers should not require employees to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note to enable them to return to work. An employee can return to work once either of the following situations is met. 

  1. An employee who had symptoms of COVID-19 illness and infection that was confirmed by a virus test or healthcare provider’s diagnosis is cleared to return to work after:  
    1. At least 24 hours with no fever without the use of medications to reduce fever such as Tylenol, Acetaminophen, Advil, Ibuprofen, Aleve, or Naproxen; AND  
    2. Symptoms have improved and no new symptoms developed; AND
    3. At least 10 days have passed since symptoms started or since the date of the positive COVID-19 test
  2. An employee who never had symptoms of illness and infection that was confirmed by a virus test is cleared to return to work 10 days after the date of the positive test.  

A negative virus test result should not be required because healthcare providers are extremely busy and may not be able to provide such documentation in a timely manner; and because the test may remain positive long after an individual is no longer contagious (unable to spread illness). This is because the test may detect dead virus particles that cannot be spread to others. People who are immunocompromised should check with their doctor before returning to work and healthcare workers should check with Occupational Health provider. This guidance is consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

Employers shall notify their employees and the Health Department of any reports they receive of positive COVID-19 tests by employees, subcontractors, contract employees, and temporary employees present at the place of employment within the previous 14 days from the date of positive test. This is in accordance with the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, Emergency Temporary Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention related to COVID-19. Cases should be reported using this form.

If you have any questions, please contact the Health Department’s Call Center at (703) 267-3511.

 

Testing Overview

There are two types of testing available for COVID-19: 

Type 1: Diagnostic tests.

There are two types of diagnostic tests: molecular tests, such as RT-PCR tests that detect the virus’s genetic material, and antigen tests, that detect specific proteins on the virus. These tests indicate if you have a current infection. Diagnostic tests most often involve a nasal or throat swab. However, there are some new diagnostic tests available with alternative methods, such as a saliva test. Test results may remain positive for days to more than a week.

Type 2: Serologic (or antibody) test.

These tests are conducted to detect COVID-19 antibodies, which your body makes in response to an infection. 

There are two types, one tests for recent infection (IgM) and one tests for past infection (IgG). The performance of these tests varies. These tests are conducted using a blood specimen. IgM becomes positive 4-10 days after infection & IgG becomes positive 10-20 days after infection. Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection.

 

What About the Antibody Test?

Antibody blood tests, also called serology tests, may show if you had a previous infection with the virus. However, medical science has yet to determine what level of antibodies confirm immunity or how long immunity might last. Until there is more definitive information, we should assume, even with positive antibodies, that a person may still be susceptible to the coronavirus.

An antibody test also should not be used to diagnose COVID-19. To see if you are currently infected, you need the viral test.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning the public about potential fraud schemes related to antibody tests for COVID-19. Scammers are marketing fraudulent and/or unapproved COVID-19 antibody tests, potentially providing false results and seeking to obtain individuals’ personal information and personal health information. Not all COVID-19 antibody tests have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and their efficacy has not been determined. Learn more about this FBI warning.

 

Learn More About Testing

What to Expect During Your TestVirginia Department of Health: VDH's COVID-19 Testing page

Virginia Department of Health Testing locations: COVID-19 Testing Sites 

Virginia Department of Health: What to Expect During Your Test

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC's Testing for COVID-19 page

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Coronavirus Testing Basics

 

 

 

Additional Resources

 

Fairfax Virtual Assistant