Who Should Get Tested?

  • For the most up-to-date state guidance regarding testing for COVID-19, refer to Updated COVID-19 Testing Guidance (ca.gov). 

    Testing for COVID-19 should be obtained for all individuals with new symptoms of COVID-19 (Symptoms of COVID-19 | CDC) regardless of vaccination status. 

    Testing for COVID-19 should be considered for all individuals identified as close contacts* to persons with confirmed COVID-19 AND all individuals who recently participated in activities that present increased risk of transmission (e.g., out-of-state-travel, crowded gatherings, high-risk sporting events, etc.). The ideal timing for testing of close contacts is 5-7 days after the exposure has occurred OR immediately if symptoms of COVID-19 arise. Laboratory-based PCR testing is the preferred testing modality in these situations. 

    The use of asymptomatic screening testing largely depends upon the vaccination status of individuals. In most cases, fully vaccinated individuals should no longer participate in asymptomatic screening testing. For more information related to this topic, and other questions around testing for COVID-19, please refer to both point-of-care (POC) antigen testing at a frequency of at least twice a week AND laboratory-based PCR testing at a frequency of at least once a week are acceptable in this scenario. 

    In many cases, businesses, event organizers, and government organizers may ask for pre-event or pre-participation testing. Generally speaking, both POC antigen testing AND laboratory-based PCR testing are acceptable in this scenario. 

    *Definition of Close Contact: Someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. 

Where can I get tested? 

Individuals with Covid-19 Symptoms

  • If you’re sick and need medical care, call your doctor or nearest Urgent Care.   Your physician will determine if testing is neccessary. 
  • If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 9-1-1. 

Refer to Symptoms of COVID-19 | CDC for the current list of symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.  

PCR and Other Molecular Tests 

Molecular tests include polymerase chain reaction (PCR), loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), and nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT). Molecular tests are both more sensitive (fewer false negatives) and more specific (fewer false positives) than antigen tests.  

Both laboratory-based molecular tests and point-of-care (POC) molecular tests are available for COVID-19 testing. Laboratory-based PCR testing is the most sensitive and specific testing option for COVID-19. The County of San Luis Obispo Community Testing Sites (link) provide laboratory-based PCR testing. Results typically take 24-48 hours. 

Similar to POC antigen testing, results for POC molecular testing are available within 15-30 minutes. POC molecular tests (e.g., Abbott ID NOW, CUE) are slightly less sensitive than laboratory-based PCR, but more sensitive than POC antigen tests. 

Antigen Tests 

Antigen tests (e.g., Binax NOW, BD Veritor, Sofia SARS Antigen FIA) are typically performed at the point of care. Results are available within 15-30 minutes. POC antigen tests have varying levels of sensitivity that are lower than the sensitivity of PCR and other molecular tests. The specificity of antigen tests is very close to the specificity of PCR and other molecular tests. 

Antibody Testing

Antibody testing, also referred to as serologic testing, is NOT useful for the diagnosis of COVID-19. Antibody testing can be helpful to determine if a person’s immune system has mounted a response to the vaccines for COVID-19 or to the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Last Updated July 15, 2021