A woman receives a COVID-19 test with a swab

COVID-19 Testing


The only way to know for sure if you have COVID-19 is to get tested.  

You should seek a COVID-19 test if:

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Your employer, doctor or health department recommends you get tested.

There are two types of COVID-19 tests available: viral tests and antibody tests.

  • A viral test checks to see if you have a current infection.  
  • An antibody test checks to see if you might have had an infection in the past. Antibodies are part of your immune system, and your body makes a lot of them when it’s fighting off infection. Even after the infection is gone, antibodies stay in your system in case of a future attack.

In California, the COVID-19 test is usually free. Most insurances cover it 100 percent, and every county offers free testing locations. At some Urgent Care centers, where they use rapid testing, they will bill you if you don’t have insurance. Be sure to confirm beforehand that the test is free.

Undocumented and uninsured people can get the necessary testing and treatment for COVID-19 at no cost. Medi-Cal will cover tests or treatments related to COVID-19.

Employers must offer COVID-19 testing at no cost to workers and will compensate workers for their time and travel expenses, if:

  • They are unvaccinated and have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • They are unvaccinated and were exposed to COVID-19 at work.
  • They are vaccinated, were exposed to COVID-19 at work, and develop symptoms.

The California COVID-19 site can help you find a COVID-19 testing site near you.