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Where to Get a Free Test for COVID-19

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) offers an online search function.
doctor or healthcare worker in protective wear, medical mask and face shield making coronavirus test and taking sample from patient

Where to get tested for COVID-19? If you've spent time with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19, you think you might be feeling symptoms of the virus, or a healthcare provider is concerned you've contracted it, you might be furiously Googling just that: "Where to get tested for COVID-19?" Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Where to Get Tested for COVID-19

Although COVID-19 testing isn't fun, at least it's free. The Free COVID–19 Testing Act was signed into law on March 12, 2020, and it "requires specified public health care programs and private health insurance to cover testing for COVID-19 without imposing cost-sharing (e.g., deductibles, coinsurance, or copayments) for the duration of the public health emergency declared on January 31, 2020."

But, where do you go to get tested? To get a free COVID-19 test, you can go to a participating health center or pharmacy in your area. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) offers an online search function that allows you to filter out participating centers and pharmacies by state. Pharmacies that offer free testing may include:

  • CVS Health
  • Walgreens
  • Rite-Aid
  • Walmart (Quest Diagnostics)
  • Walmart (eTrueNorth)

Local and independently owned pharmacies in your area may also offer free COVID-19 testing in conjunction with Quest Diagnostic, eTrueNorth, or TOPCO.

You can also contact your local or state health department to ask about free testing sites in your area. If you're in a location with a high infection rate, there may be additional testing facilities set up in nearby public spaces, such as arenas, that provide free testing. In most cases, you'll need to make an appointment and/or register online before you go get tested. Review your specific location's procedures and requirements before heading in for a test. Some testing sites prefer that you wait in your car while others may have you wait outside if the waiting room is busy.

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The Types of COVID Tests

Depending on where you go, a saliva or nasal test may be conducted. With a nasal test, a "long swab is inserted into the nose and sometimes down to the throat," according to Harvard Health. One other nasal test is called "non-invasive," requiring just a swab on the inside of the nostril—this is usually preferred by kids. While nasal tests are still performed at some sites, saliva tests are gaining popularity. These tests only require you to spit into a cup, limiting your interaction with a healthcare worker. 

"The beauty of a saliva-based test is that it's less invasive, and you could allow people to collect their own samples," says Dr. Evgeny Izumchenko from the University of Chicago.

No matter where you go or which type of COVID-19 test you get, it's important to take the virus seriously. If you suspect you've been exposed to COVID-19 or you're experiencing symptoms, quarantine for at least 14 days to ensure you don't pass the virus on to someone else. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Kelly Hernandez
Kelly Hernandez is a health and wellness writer and certified personal trainer. Read more