At-Home-Testing-QA-for-School-Administrators- School Administrator Tips and Resources: At-Home COVID Testing

School Administrator Tips and Resources: At-Home COVID Testing

Program Basics

CDPH is building upon existing efforts to keep schools safe by increasing access to no-cost, at-home COVID-19 antigen tests. More information for families, such as fliers to encourage reporting and test instructions in multiple languages, can be found in this Google Drive.

Tests provided through this program will supplement (and not replace) the many existing testing resources in place for school communities statewide. Learn More.

Is testing required by California?

There is NO state-wide testing requirement but testing is strongly recommended.
These efforts aim to remove barriers and increase access to tests for K-12 public school students, not to enforce a state-wide requirement or mandate.  

Is there any cost for students associated with these tests?

These tests have been purchased by the California Department of Public Health with support from FEMA.

What are the differences between professional antigen testing versus the OTC/at-home testing?

OTC/at-home and professional antigen tests are similar in terms of performance. If you are planning to conduct testing on others, you must participate in a professional antigen testing program. Professional antigen tests can be used at-school on students. 

OTC/at-home tests are meant to be used at home by individuals or parents/guardians. If they are used outside the home, they must still be completed (both running and interpreting the test) by individuals or parents/guardians. Users should follow the age parameters for self-administration associated with the particular OTC/at-home test they are using (typically 14 years or older). For those younger than the minimum age, guardians can administer and perform the test for children.

If OTC/at-home tests are performed on others, they are subject to federal laboratory regulations ("CLIA") and require special training. If you plan to use antigen tests in this type of scenario where staff performs tests on others, your organization needs to apply for use for CDPH's School CLIA waiver if your organization serves K-12 students. CDPH's School CLIA only covers Abbot BinaxNow professional antigen tests and not other brands of antigen tests. You can find the application on the Antigen Testing Schools Intake page.

CDPH recommends staff should not administer OTC/at-home tests, but rather allow children (if old enough) or parents to conduct the test and read results themselves.  Staff should provide educational resources for families to conduct the tests themselves. The goal of relying on OTC/at-home tests is to free up staff time and to move testing operations to parents and students in the 2022/23 school year.  Educational materials can be found here

Can school staff provide an OTC/at-home kit to a student to self-administer on campus?

Yes, school staff can provide a student or staff that meets OTC/at-home age requirements to self-administer the OTC/at-home test on campus. Users should follow the age parameters associated with the particular OTC/at-home test they are using. The range is typically 14 years and older but depends on brand. Please note that OTC/at-home tests are meant to be completed (both swabbing and running the test) by individuals or parents/guardians regardless of where they test (in their home or outside their home). If OTC/at-home tests are performed on others, they are subject to federal laboratory regulations ("CLIA") and require special training.

More information on school testing for the 2022-23 school year can be found in our School Testing FAQs.

Obtaining and Distributing Rapid Antigen Tests

What materials will CDPH provide and/or what materials already exist?

Communication materials (flyers, videos, reporting instructions) can be found in this google drive

Who should receive these rapid antigen tests?

These tests should be distributed to and used by K-12 students, teachers and staff. 

How many tests should we distribute?

Each student/staff should get at least one test, but most participants will get one box of two tests.  

How do the tests arrive?

Each box contains either 1 or 2 tests.  Organizations will receive cases of test boxes.

What materials should schools distribute with the tests?

At minimum, schools should distribute a flier with a link/QR code to log results on Primary.Health so positive results can be easily shared with the department of public health. Please consider distributing flyers and other communication materials in multiple languages.

Communication with School Employees and Families

What materials will CDPH provide and/or what materials already exist?

Communication materials (flyers, videos, reporting instructions) can be found in this google drive

I made some excellent materials for my community.  Can I share these?

Please share them with and we will add them to the Google Drive. 

OTC Test Details

What type of test is being offered?

Several brands of at-home/over-the-counter tests will be provided including, but not limited to: Orasure Inteliswab, Abbott BinaxNOW, CareStart, On/Go, Acon Flowflex, iHealth.  All are approved by the FDA under Emergency Use Authorization as rapid antigen tests with results in 30 minutes or less.

Who performs the tests?

The tests are completed at home by students (or by legal guardians on the students). This is in addition to at-school testing programs.  

The box contains two tests.  Should the testing be done on the same day?

No. The tests should be 1-3 days apart as per the manufacturer's instructions for use.  If someone develops symptoms of COVID-19, they can also use the tests at a different time.  Please see below for more guidance.

Results Reporting

Note:  Reporting is highly recommended, especially for positive results. 

How can students report their results?

We STRONGLY encourage individuals to report their results on Primary.Health, which is an online platform that allows individuals to securely consent to testing and report their results automatically to state and local health jurisdictions (including photos of test results).

Can schools track the at-home test results?

Yes – schools enrolled in Primary.Health can track their students' results. If your school/LEA is interested in enrolling in Primary.Health to track results, please enroll on the CDPH Organization Registration page.

If your school opts not to create your own individualized profile on Primary.Health, please encourage reporting through the California Schools At-Home Testing page.

Do we HAVE to use Primary.Health? Can we use our own method for tracking at-home results?

We STRONGLY encourage use of Primary.Health.  However, we acknowledge that many tests will be used and not reported or reported directly to schools.

Am I responsible for tracking down results from all tests done?

We realize that there may be many tests distributed which are not reported.  We ask that you do your best to ensure that positive results are reported and those individuals isolate in accordance with CDPH guidance.


If participants are already registered on Primary.Health for in-school testing, do they need to re-register for at-home testing?

No, they do not.  They can simply click on the link that you will provide for at-home testing and they will be directed to the self-testing interface.  They will have to enter their name and date of birth.

Can Primary.Health be accessed on a smartphone?

Yes, a smartphone is preferred.  It can also be accessed on a desktop.  We encourage participants to take pictures of their test results. (Photos of test results are very helpful when there are questions about results.

Is Primary.Health secure? 

Primary.Health maintains all data in a HIPAA-compliant manner.  The data is stored securely and is shared with CalREDIE (the same as any lab-based COVID-19 test done in a doctor's office).  If you need a signed agreement, you can request a Memorandum of Understanding with CDPH/Primary.Health by emailing

Testing Guidance

At-home testing is OPTIONAL.  There is no state-wide mandate or requirement that students have a documented negative at-home test prior to returning to school.

In what scenarios can OTC/at-home tests be used for? Are they just intended for special circumstances (e.g., return from vacation, outbreaks, etc)?

More specific guidance on the uses of OTC/at-home tests are forthcoming.  OTC/at-home tests can be used in any of the same scenarios that professional/at-school antigen tests are used for. Some examples of use of antigen tests include, but is not exhaustive:

  • Outbreak response testing

  • Testing of school members for events such as graduations 

  • Testing of close contacts and symptomatic school members

  • Pre-entry testing for summer school

  • Pre-entry testing for return from break testing

  • Asymptomatic screening testing of high risk groups or during periods of high transmission

  • Return to school after minimum of 5 days of isolation with negative test 

When should students test if they are doing pre-entry testing?

If students have at-home tests in hand prior to school reopening:

At minimum, students should test the day before or the morning of returning to school.  Ideally, they should test 1 day prior/day of returning to school AND 2-3 days after returning to school. For example if your school return from break on a Monday, testing should be done on Sunday and Tuesday of that week.

If students receive tests during the first weeks of school:

Students should test immediately and then again in 1-3 days, per the manufacturer's instructions for use.

Students should test if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or were exposed to COVID-19 (see below).

For students who are well and have no COVID-19 exposures:

  • If a student tests negative for COVID-19,  that student can return to school if they feel well and have no COVID-19 symptoms.
  • If a student tests positive for COVID-19, that student should stay home from school and both the school and doctor should be contacted right away.
  • If a student's parent is not sure about the test results, then they should re-test at a school-based or community testing site.

What if a student has COVID-19 symptoms?

The student can use their at-home test.

If they test positive: They should inform their doctor to make a plan for care.  They should isolate per CDPH guidance. The school should be informed about the positive test.

If they test negative:  Talk to your school before they return.

Are there specific guidelines for those returning from international/domestic travel?

Follow national guidance from the CDC.  As of June 13th, 2022 the CDC recommends all travelers test 3-5 days after their return to the US. 

Can a positive at-home test be used as evidence of infection (for excuse from testing for 90 days)?

Unless specified by your local health department, if a positive test is properly logged and photographed in Primary.Health, it can be used for that purpose.