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State of California—Health and Human Services Agency
California Department of Public Health

May 1, 2020

Public Health Departments, Health Care Providers, and COVID-19 Testing Laboratories

Expanding Access to Testing: Updated Interim Guidance on Prioritization for COVID-19 Laboratory Testing

This Guidance is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.

Testing for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), both PCR and serology, is becoming more readily available at hospitals, academic, commercial, and public health laboratories across California. Governor Newsom and the Testing Task Force are committed to rapidly expanding testing across California, ensuring that more Californians get tested. Expanded testing will help protect all Californians, including racial and ethnic populations known to be disproportionately at risk for severe COVID-19 disease and allow us to better understand the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. 

This interim guidance is intended to support public health officials, health care providers, and laboratories in determining prioritization of specific groups for PCR molecular testing when testing availability is limited.

The guidance will be reassessed weekly based on California's evolving situation and input from stakeholders. The prioritization categories below are suggestions to support sequential expansion of testing availability and should not supersede the recommendations of a clinician or local health officer. As testing capacity increases, testing should expand accordingly at the discretion of the Local Health Officer.

Note: All testing should be accompanied by a seamless plan for follow-up of disclosure of test results and linkage to care. Testing of asymptomatic persons in health care, occupational and congregate settings is not a requirement, but may be done if needed to control or prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Additionally, in congregate settings decisions should be made for how results will be used for infection control, resident placement, staff and resident cohorting, continuity of care when residents are transferred to other congregate settings, and frequency of repeat testing of residents and staff who test negative.


Ill persons should stay home and away from others until there has been no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, there has been improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) for at least 3 days; AND it is at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared, i.e., the minimum length of time will be 10 days.

Additional Resources

Interim Guidance for Implementing Home Care of People Not Requiring Hospitalization for COVID-19

California Department of Public Health's Guidance web page

California Department of Public Health's Resource web page

California Department of Public Healths All Facilities Letters - 2020 web page