Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing

When to Get Tested

Key times to get tested for COVID-19 include: 

  • If you have symptoms, test immediately.
  • If you were exposed to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms, wait at least 5 full days after your exposure before testing. If you test too early, you may be more likely to get an inaccurate result.
  • If you are in certain high-risk settings, you may need to test as part of a screening testing program.
  • Consider testing before contact with someone at high risk for severe COVID-19, especially if you are in an area with a medium or high COVID-19 Community Level.

 

Testing Options

COVID-19 testing sites are available in Fairfax and the surrounding jurisdictions. Use this Virginia Department of Health (VDH) tool to search for a testing site in Virginia near you.

1At-Home Testing

At-home testing allows a person to collect a specimen and perform either a molecular or antigen test at home according to directions provided with the kit.

Getting an at-home test:

  • As of December 15, households can now order four more free at-home COVID-19 tests. Order your tests at COVIDTests.gov,  or by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) between 8 a.m. and midnight ET any day of the week.
  • At-home tests can be purchased at pharmacies and other retailers.
  • Individuals who purchase tests commercially (at a store or online) may also submit receipts for reimbursement through their private insurance plans. Private health insurers are required to cover up to eight at-home tests per month. Contact your insurance company to learn more. Learn more about reimbursement at COVIDtests.gov.

Using at-home COVID-19 tests:

The FDA recommends repeat testing after a negative result on an at-home COVID-19 antigen test, whether or not you have symptoms. Repeat testing reduces the risk an infection may be missed and to help prevent people from unknowingly spreading the virus

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms, test again 48 hours after the first negative test. If you get a negative result on the second test and you are concerned that you could have COVID-19, you may choose to test again 48 hours after the second test, consider getting a laboratory molecular-based test, or call your health care provider.
    • You may have COVID-19, but tested before the virus was detectable, or you may have another illness.
    • Take general public health precautions to prevent spreading an illness to others.
    • Contact a healthcare provider if you have any questions about your test result or if your symptoms worsen.
  • If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, test again 48 hours after the first negative test, then 48 hours after the second negative test. You should continue to take recommended steps after exposure.
  • See the detailed guidance about when to repeat testing. 

Most at-home COVID-19 antigen tests do not detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as molecular tests, like PCR tests. COVID-19 antigen tests may not detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus early in an infection, meaning testing soon after you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 could lead to a false-negative result (this means the test did not detect the virus when a person is infected), especially if you don't have symptoms. 

Positive antigen test results are typically accurate. If you receive a positive result initially or after a repeat test, this means the test detected the SARS-CoV-2 virus and you most likely have COVID-19.

More at-home tests tips:

  • Store all test components according to the manufacturer’s instructions until ready for use.
  • Check the expiration date. Do not use expired tests or test components that are damaged or appear discolored based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Clean the countertop, table, or other surfaces where you will do the test.
  • Do not open test devices or other test components until you are ready to start the testing process.
  • Have a timer ready because you may need to time several of the test steps.
  • Read test results only within the amount of time specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. A result read before or after the specified timeframe may be incorrect.
  • Don’t reuse test devices or other components.

2Contact a Health Care Provider

Call your health care provider to discuss your symptoms and get scheduled for a test. Places such as urgent care centers, community health centers, and community-based clinics across the region also offer testing.

You can search for a location using the VDH testing site search tool or by calling a provider directly. Most clinics are set up to swab patients for testing on-site and some offer drive-up and walk-up testing options. 

Qualified uninsured individuals may now be able to access free COVID-19 laboratory testing through Quest Diagnostics. This testing is offered as part of a program from the CDC. To see if you qualify and make an appointment, visit the Quest website. 

3Get tested by the Health Department

The Health Department offers COVID-19 testing at its clinics to people who have symptoms; those who do not have access to testing options available in the community; those identified as close contacts; and for those returning from international travel. Appointments are required. Call 703-324-7404 to schedule a testing appointment. 

The Health Department testing through its mobile laboratory partner Curative ceased operations on Thursday, Dec. 15. Learn more.

What if My Test is Positive?

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 there are some important steps that you need to take:

  • Stay home and away from others
  • Tell your close contacts

Treatments are Available

If you are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19, effective treatment is now available that can prevent illness from becoming worse leading to hospitalization and death. 

Several types of treatment are available, which may be used at different times or in different groups of patients. Talk with your healthcare provider to get more information about the range of options.

Here are three things to know about

  1. If you test positive and are an older adult or someone who is at increased risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, treatment is available. Contact a healthcare provider after a positive test to determine if you are eligible for treatment, even if you only have mild or moderate symptoms. You can also visit a Test to Treat location and, if eligible, receive a prescription from a provider at that location.
  2. Follow CDC guidance on testing for COVID-19. Find a testing location that can provide treatment if you test positive using the Treatment Locator or by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).
  3. Don’t delay: Treatment must be started within the five days of when your symptoms began.

Medications to treat COVID-19 are free, even if you do not have health insurance. While there is no cost for tablets (such as Paxlovid), there may be a co-pay for infusion or injection of a monoclonal antibody product. For those using the Test to Treat program at a pharmacy clinic, health insurance, including Medicaid, also will pay the cost of the consultation. If you do not have health insurance, you would be responsible for the consultation fee.

Learn more about COVID-19 Treatments and Medications.

If You Don’t Have Insurance

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.

 

Types of Tests

There are two types of testing available for COVID-19. COVID-19 tests can detect either SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, or antibodies that your body makes after getting COVID-19 or after getting vaccinated. Learn more about the types of tests available: 

VDH

CDC:

 

Additional Testing Information and Related Resources

Infected or Exposed to COVID-19?

Guidance for Parents of School-aged Children

Virginia Department of Health:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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

HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR): Test to Treat

Fairfax Virtual Assistant