Where can I get a free COVID test?

You have probably heard a lot about COVID-19 testing, and likely been tested before. But with the many types of tests and new testing requirements for flying, working in person, or attending events, it is important to understand when and how to get the right COVID test for you.

What are the types of tests? 

To check for a current COVID infection, you need what’s called a viral or diagnostic test. These tests collect a sample from your nose, or less commonly from your throat or cheeks. There are two main types:

  1. Molecular tests are highly accurate, meaning they do a great job of telling you if you have COVID. Results take a few hours to a few days. These are typically administered by a professional. Specific types of molecular tests include PCR, RT-PCR, LAMP, or NAAT tests. 
  2. Antigen tests, often called rapid diagnostics, are quicker but less accurate. They may miss a case if you have COVID without symptoms or were recently infected. Results usually come back within 30 minutes. These can be done by a professional or by yourself. You had an antigen test if you got a BinaxNOW, CareStart, or InteliSwab rapid test, among others. 

Where can I find a test? 

In the U.S., COVID tests are provided at no cost, even without insurance. Although the exact location will depend on where you live, generally the following places offer free COVID tests. 

  1. Healthcare providers may be your primary resource if you have symptoms. If you have a primary care physician, reach out to them to set up an appointment. If you do not have a regular provider, enter your zip code here to find a community clinic near you. 
  2. Local departments of health partner with or manage open testing sites. Look up your county or state health department website to find a list. 
  3. Pharmacies offer walk-up or drive-through testing, including Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid
  4. Quest Diagnostics provides testing at pop-up sites, Walmart, and Quest Patient Services Centers for some eligible populations. 

Here is a complete list of where to find a test in each state

Last update: Aug 23, 2021, 18:30 ET

Science review:ERS, BK