Contact Us LA Health Portal Emergency

COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions About Testing

COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions About Testing

header-title-decorationCOVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions About Testing

What You Need to Know About COVID-19


When should I get tested?

You should get tested if:

  • You have COVID-19 symptoms:Talk to a doctor and get tested – even if you are fully vaccinated or have had COVID-19 in the past.  Your health care provider can talk with you about your concerns.  If you do not have a doctor, call 211 or visit the 211LA to get a referral.
  • You have been a “close contact” to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days*: Get tested 5-7 days after your exposure—even if you are fully vaccinated.   If you are not fully vaccinated and this test collected on or after Day 5 is negative, you can end quarantine after Day 7. School children who are under a modified quarantine must get tested twice—once as soon as possible after the exposure and the second at least 3 days later.  To learn more, visit Quarantine and Other Instructions for Close Contacts:
  • You are part of an outbreak investigation
    If you live or work in a place where other people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you may need to be tested, even if you are fully vaccinated or had COVID-19 in the past.

The above are reasons for diagnostic testing. For more information, visit the COVID-19 Testing page on the LA County Department of Public Health website.

* If you have had a positive viral test for COVID-19 in the last 90 days, testing again is not recommended as long as you do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

If you are not experiencing symptoms nor have been exposed to a COVID-19, there may be times when you need to “screen” for COVID-19.

When do I need to get screened for COVID-19?

There may be times when you want to confirm that you are not infected to prevent the spread of COVID-19 because it is highly contagious AND you can carry the virus without experiencing symptoms. This is called “screening testing”.

‘Screening testing’ is NOT recommended for fully vaccinated unless they fall into one of the categories listed above.

Screening testing is required if:

Note: There may be other settings that have their own screening testing requirements.

Screening testing is currently recommended if:

    • You participate in organized youth sports, including school sports teams. See Protocol for Organized Youth Sports for more details.
    • You are traveling outside of California (within the United States). Testing is recommended 1-3 days before and 3-5 days after travel. See Travel Advisory.
    • You are going to be attending an outdoor mega-event. (Testing will be required effective October 7, 2021)
  • You After returning from international travel, even if you are fully vaccinated
  • For teachers and students in schools
    • It is recommended that students get regular screening testing if not fully vaccinated. (Unvaccinated teachers are required to get in regular screening testing).
    • If community transmission rates are high, fully vaccinated students and teachers may be asked to get tested as part of school surveillance testing

For more information about COVID 19 diagnostic and screening tests

Who is considered a close contact of COVID-19?

A “close contact” is anyone exposed to a person with or suspected to have COVID-19 while infectious*. Exposures include:

  1. Being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period.
  2. Having unprotected contact with an infected person’s body fluids and/or secretions. For example, being coughed or sneezed on, sharing utensils or saliva, or providing care without wearing appropriate protective equipment.

*When you are infectious, you can spread COVID-19 to others because it is highly contagious. Someone with COVID-19 is infectious from 2 days before their symptoms first appear until they are no longer required to be isolated (as described in Home Isolation Instructions for People with COVID-19). A person with no symptoms and a positive COVID-19 test is infectious from 2 days before their test was taken until 10 days after their test.

Will a COVID-19 test protect me from the virus?

No. Even if you have a negative result, you should practice physical distancing, wear a face covering, and wash your hands frequently. A negative COVID-19 test does not guarantee that you do not have the virus. With widespread community transmission, there is a daily risk of being infected with COVID-19.

The best protection available currently is to get vaccinated.  Click here for more information about vaccinations.

Can my pet be tested for Covid, too?


How do I get an appointment?

Enter your location on COVID-19 Testing website and find a convenient testing location.  You can search by walk-up or drive-up, by sites that offer tests for minors (17 and under) and by those that offer same-day or no appointment walk-in appointments.  Some testing sites are mobile, so they may pop-up as needed or requested by the community.  The website site shows available appointments up to 3-4 days out.

If no appointments are available at your preferred site, please check back or select a different location. Appointments are added to the website daily.

Is all COVID-19 testing free?

The COVID-19 testing sites COVID-19 Testing website offer no-cost (free) testing.  Participating community clinics, providers, and other agencies may ask for your insurance information or ask you to enroll in a government program so that they can get reimbursed for the cost of the test. If you are unable or unwilling to provide this information, some sites may charge a sliding scale fee. The County does not endorse or regulate all COVID-19 testing sites. Please make sure to read and ask about any costs for a COVID-19 test.

What if I do not have internet access? Can I still get tested for COVID-19?

Residents of LA County without internet access can call 211 to speak with an operator who will help you make an appointment.  Some testing sites also take same day walk-ins.  Please search the map for same day walk-ins.

Why do some registration sites ask for a driver’s license or social security number? Is this required?

The Federal Government has approved funding to reimburse health care providers and facilities for COVID-19 testing and treatment of the uninsured. We are required to ask for your insurance information to receive reimbursement. However, you do not need to provide a driver’s license or social security number to get a test. If you do not have a driver’s license, please bring a form of personal identification to your test. COVID-19 testing is available, regardless of immigration status. Health care providers are not required to confirm immigration status prior to submitting claims for reimbursement.


Do I need to do anything to prepare for my test?

Please do not smoke, vape, eat or drink anything 1 hour before your test. Bring some form of identification and your appointment confirmation (if you made an appointment) to match the registration information.  Your identity and your test results are protected by federal law and will not be shared with any other agencies for purposes of law enforcement or immigration. Please also wear your face-covering when you arrive at the testing site.

What type of test is used at County-supported testing sites?

County supported sites use a Point-of-Care COVID-19 antigen test for the rapid diagnoses of active infection primarily by detecting the nucleocapsid protein antigen of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) from nasal swabs or similar clinical specimens.

Point-of-care testing uses rapid diagnostic tests performed or interpreted by someone other than the individual being tested or their parent or guardian and can be performed in a variety of settings to produce a rapid and reliable result.

Antigen tests are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen, which indicates a current viral infection. Antigen tests are commonly used in the diagnosis of other respiratory pathogens, including influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for antigen tests that can identify SARS-CoV-2.

Additional information can be found here:

What does the test consist of?

We use a Point-of Care COVID 19 antigen test for rapid diagnosis of the SARS-CoV-2-virus (the virus that causes COVID-19).  The antigen test collects a sample for the test from the nose.

There are two ways that samples from the nose are being collected. The most common way is for the sample to be taken from the front of the nose. This is a “self-administered” test, meaning the person taking the test collects this sample on their own. It is much more comfortable than the sample taken from the back of the nose. Most county operated sites are using this collection method. Here is a short video to help you prepare for how to collect the sample: (English) and (Español)

Can I have other people in my car when I arrive for testing?

Yes, but please do not expose others if you suspect you have COVID-19. Only those with confirmed appointments will be tested. All individuals in the car should be wearing appropriate face coverings.

I signed up at a drive-up site. Do I have to get out of my car?

No, tests at drive-up sites will be performed while you remain in your vehicle.

What if I don’t have a car?

If you do not have a car, you may make an appointment or visit any of the walk-up testing sites in LA County. To find the nearest walk-up testing location near you, use the map here.

Can my child be tested?

Testing is available for children, and testing sites that test minors will be shown on the testing map on the website. A parent or guardian will need to help with the test. If your child has new or worsening symptoms such as trouble breathing, pain or pressure in chest, feeling confused or having difficulty waking up, or blue-colored lips or face, call 911 or seek emergency medical attention right away.

Am I required to show ID?

Minors are not required to show identification.

Everyone 18 years of age and over should bring some type of personal identification to your test. This helps ensure that your test results are matched to the right person. Your identity and test results are protected by federal law and will not be shared with any other agencies for purposes of law enforcement or immigration.


How long does it take to get test results?

Point of Care COVID-19 Antigen test results take between 15 to 30 min at the test site

It is very important that you provide accurate and complete information when registering because this is what is used to contact you for your results. Antigen tests produce results quickly (within approximately 15–30 minutes) and can be given to you at the testing site location. It may be appropriate to confirm antigen test results with a laboratory-based PCR test. Confirmatory testing following a positive antigen test may not be necessary when the pretest probability is high, especially if the person has a known exposure.

Even if the test is negative and you are experiencing symptoms, you should remain at home until any fever has resolved and any other symptoms have significantly improved.  If you are not improving, or feeling worse, contact your doctor or seek medical care. For more information and resources, please visit

How do I follow up on my results?

If you need your test results of your COVID-19 test take at one LA County DHS supported community testing sites in LA County, call 211 or visit


I am a business owner. What options do I have if I want to get all my employees tested before bringing them back to work?

The County-supported testing sites will provide testing for priority populations , as defined by the Department of Public Health (DPH).

The County is not offering testing for employers seeking to test all employees, or for employers who wish to implement testing for employees coming back to work after a period of absence. Employers who are interested in implementing this practice should work directly with a lab offering these services. The California Testing Task Force is maintaining a list of laboratories that can collect and/or receive samples for RT-PCR COVID testing. Click here to view this list on the State of California Testing Task Force website.

Can my employer offer COVID-19 testing?

Yes, employers can offer and pay for COVID-19 testing as an occupational health and safety measure. If an employer requires routine or repeated testing, your employer should provide that test. These employees should not seek a test at the City/County/State-operated testing sites, which should be reserved for those who do not have access to testing through their regular provider or health plan.


How many appointments are available at the testing sites?

There are over 200,000 testing appointments available each week across LA County – this doesn’t include testing capacity from independent testing partners throughout LA County. The number of testing appointments vary by site depending on size and personnel available, between 50 to over 1,000 appointments per day.

How are COVID-19 testing sites determined?

We work in partnership with the State, local jurisdictions, community partners, and the existing health system to establish a broad network of testing sites that offer free testing to all Los Angeles County residents who either cannot access testing with their healthcare provider or does not have a provider.

The County looks at the COVID-19 mortality rates, positivity rates and testing rates in communities across the County to identify highest-need areas in order to expand testing or open new testing sites.