How-to-Get-Tested How to Get Tested

How to Get Tested

​​​​​​​COVID-19 testing is confidential and available to every Californian.​

How to ge​t tested

Use an at-home ​test

Test yourself and get results in less than 30 minutes.

Plan ahead to have COVID-19 tests on hand before you get sick. Read more about at-home tests:

​​​​​Free tests if you have Medi-Cal​

  • Get the Medi-Cal card(s) for each person in your family. Each person with a Medi-Cal card can receive up to 8 free tests (or 4 boxes if each box has 2 tests) each month with their card.

  • Go to a pharmacy or a store with a pharmacy.

  • Go to the pharmacy co​unter where prescriptions are dropped off. Other registers in the store cannot provide free COVID-19 tests.

  • Show your Medi-Cal card(s) and ask for 8 at-home COVID-19 antigen tests for each person.

Read more: Three Easy Steps To Get Free COVID-19 Antigen Tests(PDF)

Getting tests if you have private ​​insurance, Medicare or Medicare Advantage

Most California insurance plans will pay or reimburse for 8 at-home test kits per month. Details are different for each plan; contact your provider for more information. Find out more at COVID-19 Coverage Changes (PDF).​​

Before you throw out “expired" tests

Most at-home tests can be safely used past the date on the box. Check to see if your COVID-19 tests' expiration dates have been extended on the FDA's At-Home COVID-19 Test page.

Replace your tests with fresh ones as the extended expiration dates approach. If you have to, you can use an expired test until you can get new ones, as long as the control line is working. See your test instructions for details about the control line.

Find testing sites near you

Use these links to find testing sites near you:


At some testing sites, you can get medication for COVID-19 right away if you test positive and are eligible.

COVID-19 medication can prevent hospitalization and death. It works best if started right away. Learn more about tre​atment options.

When to get tested

If you have symptoms

Vaccinated or not, get tested immediately if you're feeling any COVID-19 symptoms. If your first test is negative, test again 1 day later.

If your second test is negative and you are still concerned about COVID-19, consider a third test at least a day later or a laboratory-based test that your doctor could order for you.

If you are at higher risk

If you are more likely to become very ill from COVID-19, consider testing within 5 days after exposure even if you do not have symptoms. COVID-19 m​edication​ works best if started right away.

If you go to a high-risk setting or are around higher-risk people

Consider testing and masking before entering settings where persons at higher risk of severe disease are more likely to be present or in other settings when you are around people at higher risk of severe COVID-19. If you had an exposure in the last 5 days, test before entering.

Read more about COVID-19 risk in the CDC Understanding Risk guidance.

Testing at work​

Read more about workplace testing at:

Questions and answers

What should I do if I have symptoms and test positive for COVID-19?

Mask as soon as possible, and ask your doctor if you are eligible for treatment. If you don't have a doctor or are uninsured, find out about ​free telehealth options or call 1-833-686-5051.

Treatment works best if started right away. Do not wait for symptoms to get worse. Read more about COVID-19 trea​tments​.  

If you have symptoms, isolate (stay home and avoid others) until fever has been gone for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, and symptoms are mild and improving. Read more about how long to is​o​late​ and mask​​ing​ recommendations.

If you do not have symptoms, follow other recommendations in What To D​​o If You Test Positive.​

What if I don't have health insurance and I need COVID-19 testing?

Use the CDC No-Cost Testing Locator to find a site near you.

Other testing sites may also provide free tests. Contact the site and see if there is a cost.

How long does it take for COVID-19 test results to come back?

At-home tests or antigen tests in a clinic or workplace give results in 15-30 minutes.

PCR and other molecular tests sent to a lab are usually returned in 1-2 days after the lab gets the test. This does not include transport time. 

If you haven't received your test results and it's been several days, contact the testing site.

Stay informed