When to Test

Last updated 6/8/2022

People can spread COVID-19 without knowing that they are sick, so protect your family, friends and neighbors by getting tested before participating in group activities, especially indoor activities. You can get tested for free, whether you have symptoms or not. For testing locations and to make an appointment, visit our Get Tested page.

  • You have COVID-19 symptoms. Symptoms could include: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. We recommend getting tested as soon as possible if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Click here to view a symptom comparison chart.

  • You were or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Exposure means you shared the same indoor air space with someone who has COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. You do not need to stay home (quarantine), but should get tested 5 days after exposure, or sooner if you start feeling sick. For more information, visit our For COVID-19 Patients and Contacts page. 

  • You are attending an event or gathering. Get tested as close to the event date as possible. Consider testing 3-5 days after the event.

  • You are traveling. Follow CDC recommendations for domestic and international travel. All people, whether they’re vaccinated or not, should get tested within 3-5 days of arriving in California.

  • You live or work in a high-risk setting and were exposed to someone with COVID-19. Follow workplace instructions about testing, quarantine and isolation. For more information, visit our For COVID-19 Patients and Contacts page.

  • To end isolation. If you test positive for COVID-19, you can end your isolation period on day 6 if a test taken on or after day 5 is negative. Antigen tests are recommended for COVID-positive people to end isolation. Visit our For COVID-19 Patients and Contacts page for more information.


COVID-19 Treatments:

If you test positive for COVID-19, treatment may be available. Contact your healthcare provider right away after a positive test to determine if you may be eligible, even if your symptoms are mild right now. Don’t delay: Treatment must be started within the first few days to be effective. Click here to learn more about treatments or talk to your healthcare provider.