COVID-19 Testing

If you think you may have COVID-19, the most important thing to do is to isolate yourself from others and contact your healthcare provider about testing and care. Most people will have mild illness (or even no illness) and can recover at home without medical care and may not need to be tested. If testing is recommended, there are many FREE resources available and your healthcare provider should direct you to a location served by your health plan. If you do not have insurance, there are many locations that provide FREE testing.

There are two kinds of tests for COVID-19:

  • PCR/viral tests - A viral test, usually called a PCR test, can tell you if you  are currently infected with COVID-19. It is taken with a swab in the mouth, nose or throat.
  • A serology/antibody test does NOT tell you if you are infected currently. It only tells you if you had a previous COVID-198 infection. This type of test is currenttly not recommended for individual use.

Resources on this page are for PCR/viral tests for COVID-19 in Orange County.

Who Should Get Tested?

People with symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested. The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • Primary symptoms may include: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Other symptoms may include: fatigue (feeling tired), muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.

Testing of Asymptomatic Persons (Persons without Symptoms)

CDC's guidance indicates that anyone with close contact (spending 15 minutes or more within 6 feet) to someone known or suspected to have COVID-19 may be tested. However, those with close contact to a known case will as a rule still need to quarantine and be excluded from work for 14 days regardless of test result, limiting the utility of asymptomatic testing. Testing of asymptomatic persons is most useful to identify and prevent outbreaks in specific situations. Asymptomatic persons who should be prioritized for testing include those who:

  • Work or reside in congregate living settings such as skilled nursing facilities, jails, or homeless shelters.
  • Work at a worksite with an identified outbreak.

Asymptomatic persons may be tested through their medical provider or at community sites such as the OptumServe sites described below, or as part of a public health investigation. To assure appropriate use of community resources, asymptomatic patients should not generally be tested in community emergency rooms.

Clearance from Isolation and Return to Work for Persons with Confirmed COVID-19 Infection

Persons with confirmed COVID-19 infection can have isolation precautions discontinued when their illness improves by three criteria:

  • At least 3 days (72 hours) fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications
  • Improvement in symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath; AND
  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared

The CDC also offers a test-based strategy for discontinuing isolation. This strategy requires improvement in symptoms and at least two consecutive negative results from PCR testing of specimens collected at least 24 hours apart. However, because people (including healthcare workers) who are no longer infectious may continue to be PCR-positive for extended periods (4-6 weeks or longer), this strategy frequently leads to prolonged isolation periods and is not routinely recommended by OCHCA.

COVID-19 Testing Locations in Orange County

There are more than 50 testing locations in Orange County offering free testing to most or all eligible people, and many more through individual healthcare providers. Click here for a current list of most sites.

Where Can I Get Tested?

Ask your  healthcare provider about testing. If you have health insurance, contact your healthcare provider about FREE testing and care. If you do not know how to reach your healthcare provider, call the customer service number on your insurance card, or click here to view websites of major healthcare providers in Orange County.

The following types of testing sites are available:

  • OC COVID-19 Testing Network for those with Symptoms. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or someone in your household has COVID-19, and you cannot get a test though your healthcare provider, you can get a FREE medical assessment (check-up) and a test through the OC COVID-19 Testing Network. These are community health centers that offer testing and care, even if you don’t have health insurance.
  • State of California OptumServe Testing Sites. These sites provide FREE testing with a brief medical screening to people who cannot get a test through their healthcare provider.  These sites only offer testing and do not have a medical provider on site.  These sites are recommended for people without symptoms  (asymptomatic)– such as healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers; and those who have had close contact to someone with COVID-19. Make an appointment for testing by visiting OptumServe Testing or call (888) 634-1123 if you do not have internet access.
  • Drive Thru Testing Clinics, Urgent Cares, and Labs. Many locations are now available for testing. They will accept your health insurance with NO COPAY, and some - for example, CVS - will provide FREE testing for people without insurance. Contact them first to check any costs and to make an appointment.