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When is a COVID-19 test right for you?

Testing is key to stopping the spread as state restrictions lift

Although COVID-19 cases are declining, it's still important to be aware of exposure and also how to be tested. (Courtesy Washington State Department of Health)
Although COVID-19 cases are declining, it's still important to be aware of exposure and also how to be tested. (Courtesy Washington State Department of Health)
Sponsored content provided by Washington State Department of Health

COVID-19 testing is one of the best tools we have for keeping our communities safe– especially as more people return to offices and masking requirements are lifted.

With more testing options, you might be wondering when and how to get a test. We’re summing up the basics.

When should I test?

  • When you feel sick. Get tested immediately if you’re not feeling well.
  • When you have recovered from feeling sick. A negative COVID-19 test may be a requirement to return to your workplace or school campuses even if symptoms are gone.
  • When you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Get tested immediately if you’re showing symptoms. If you’re not showing symptoms, wait five days until after the exposure and then test.
  • When you’re headed out on the town. Businesses can still require a negative test and/or vaccination verification. Look online or call the business ahead of time if you have questions.
  • When you’re traveling. Check the CDC’s latest guidance on international and domestic travel.
  • Anytime you want some added peace of mind! Testing can be a useful tool ahead of gathering with people who may be at risk of severe illness or are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Which test is best to take?

    The best test is the one that’s available to you. If you have an at-home test on hand, use that. If you see an available appointment for a testing site, schedule it. One exception is when a specific test is required for your situation (like for traveling or returning to work).

    Are all tests accurate?

    All tests can be used to assess if someone currently has COVID-19. It’s rare for someone to get a positive test result if they’re not infected (called a false positive).

    False negatives are more common with antigen tests than with PCR tests — especially at the beginning of an infection. That’s why some kits will include two tests. Follow the instructions on the box for when to space out the tests for accurate results.

    Should I quarantine or isolate before I test and as I wait for my results?

    Knowing when to quarantine or isolate can be a little confusing, so keep these guidelines in mind:

    • If you feel sick. Stay home and isolate, away from others, including people you live with. This goes for all people regardless of vaccination status.
    • If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. You may need to quarantine, depending on your vaccination status and if you have symptoms. Check the latest CDC guidance.
    • If you’re traveling. You may need to quarantine while you’re waiting for test results before or after travel, depending on your vaccination status. The CDC recommends a quarantine period for unvaccinated individuals.
    • Where can I get a test?

      It’s a good idea to always have a few tests on hand so you’re prepared for any circumstance.

      • You can order eight free tests per household through the federal government at
      • You can order up to two test kits per month through the Washington State Department of Health at
      • You can get tested at no cost at county or state test sites.
      • You can purchase at-home tests at local or online retailers and pharmacies.
      • If you have health insurance, most insurers will now pay you back for up to eight at-⁠home tests per month, for each person on your plan.
      • What should I do with my at-home COVID-19 test results?

        positive test result means that you likely have a current infection, and you should isolate and inform close contacts.

        Currently, there are two ways to notify the state and people around you about your positive at-home test result:

        • Washington’s COVID-19 hotline — Call 1–800–525–0127 to report your result and access available Care Connect resources.
        • WA Notify — Users can enter a positive test result on the app, which will anonymously alert other WA Notify users of a potential exposure.
        • We’ve seen a steady decline in COVID-19 infections, and that’s worth celebrating. But we’re not out of the woods yet! By following proper protocol for exposures, we can keep moving toward a brighter path. Learn more at

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