FAQ

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests check for genetic material (viral RNA) produced by the virus. This determines if an individual is actively infected with COVID-19 and can spread it to others.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PCR test?

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests check for genetic material (viral RNA) produced by the virus. This determines if an individual is actively infected with COVID-19 and can spread it to others.

Who should get a COVID-19 PCR test?

You should get tested if:
You have symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath).
You don’t have symptoms but may have been exposed to COVID-19.
You don’t have symptoms and haven’t been recently exposed but live or work in a place where people reside, meet, or gather in close proximity (this can include healthcare settings, homeless shelters, assisted living facilities, group homes, prisons, detention centers, schools, and workplaces).
Your employer, public health department, contact investigator, or healthcare provider has identified you as someone who should get tested.
If you believe you have symptoms of COVID-19 or that you have been exposed to the virus, you should consult your place of work for specific guidance about whether to stay home or continue working.
Visit the CDC website for more information about testing.

Someone I was around has symptoms of COVID-19 or has been diagnosed with it. Should I get a PCR test?

It is recommended that you get tested and quarantine for 14 days if you have been potentially exposed to COVID-19. Visit the CDC website for further information.

Are there any limitations to COVID-19 PCR tests?

A PCR test may not detect the virus in early stages of infection. In addition, a PCR test may not detect the virus if there was a problem with your sample, such as when the sample is not collected as directed. There is also the possibility of a false negative (a negative result that is incorrect) if you’ve had recent exposure to the virus along with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

What will my COVID-19 PCR test results tell me?

This test will confirm whether or not you are currently infected with COVID-19. If your results are positive, it is important to isolate immediately and continue to monitor your symptoms. If your results are negative, it means the virus was not present in the sample you provided. 
After receiving your results, you will have an opportunity to speak with a licensed healthcare provider who can answer any questions you may have about your test results and help determine next steps in care.

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