About COVID-19 Testing

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If you have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, testing is an important way to protect your family, friends, and community.

You have questions about COVID-19, as there are many people who are testing positive — often with home tests — recently.

Mass General Brigham has limited capacity for testing at this time. We are no longer able to offer elective testing (for example, testing for travel). We are adding testing capacity. We hope to be able to offer elective testing again soon.


  • Who should get tested for COVID-19?

    We recommend patients get tested for COVID-19 if you:

    • Have symptoms of COVID-19:
      • Cough
      • Fever
      • Loss of smell/taste
      • Muscle aches
      • Runny nose
      • Shortness of breath
      • Sore throat
    • Have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
      “Close contact” means you spent time directly with an infected person. This means you were within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period. The 15 minutes do not need to be at the same time. For example, three separate 5-minute exposures over the course of a day would total a 15-minute exposure.
  • What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

    Isolation is for people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Quarantine is for people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Read more from the CDC.

    Guidance around the need for quarantine and testing after an exposure is changing. See the CDC, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, or your state website for the most up-to-date guidance.

    Note that most Massachusetts public schools are following the Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidance. However, some schools may have different guidelines. Please call your child’s school to find out what their specific policy is on quarantining if your child has been exposed.

At-home tests

  • I tested positive at home. Do I need to get a PCR test?

    If you use a home testing kit and test positive, you have COVID-19. You do not need a PCR test for confirmation. Please start home isolation immediately and notify your close contacts of your positive test. This guidance may change over time depending on how much COVID is in our community. We will let you know if this changes.

  • I tested negative after an exposure. What should I do?

    If you tested negative with a home test, follow the current guidelines related to quarantine and other testing. If you develop symptoms, you should test again. If a home antigen test is negative and you have symptoms, public health experts recommend getting a PCR test or test yourself again with a home test after a few days.

    In Massachusetts, unless local health departments have chosen otherwise, schools may allow a child to test and stay in school if they are exposed in school. Please call your child’s school to understand the school’s policy. 

    Please note that the flu is now spreading in our community too. If you have a negative COVID test but have moderate symptoms, including fever and body aches, contact your primary care provider’s office. They may test you for flu or give you a medication for flu, especially if you are in one of the high-risk groups above.

    Please continue to take precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

Testing at Mass General Brigham

  • How can I get tested?

    Massachusetts has many testing options. If you live somewhere else, check your state website for resources. You can also use a home testing kit (often called antigen tests). Read more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about home testing. Please do not go to the emergency room or urgent care only to get a COVID-19 test.

    If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, we are no longer able to offer elective testing (for example, testing for travel). We are adding testing capacity. We hope to be able to offer elective testing again soon.

    If you do have symptoms of COVID-19, Mass General Brigham has limited capacity for testing at this time. Most of our locations require an appointment. Your primary care provider's office will work with you to find the most convenient place to get tested.

    We also have community vans that offer limited COVID-19 tests on select days and times; no appointment needed. Please view the schedule for when we will be in your neighborhood.

  • What is the Mass General Brigham test like?

    The test we use is the viral PCR test. It is done by swabbing your nose.

  • How much does the test cost?

    Most COVID-19 tests are covered by insurance, at no additional cost to you. This includes tests that are done for health reasons (like symptoms or a confirmed exposure) and those that are elective (like testing for travel or before visiting family).

    Please contact your health insurance plan/provider if you have questions. 

    There are also free community testing sites available in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

  • When should I expect my test results?

    Expect results in 24–48 hours. The fastest way to see results is through the Mass General Brigham Patient Gateway portal. Once the test analysis is complete, COVID-19 results are immediately available in Patient Gateway.

    Please note: Positive test results are reported to the Department of Public Health. You may get a call from your local Board of Health or the Massachusetts COVID Team.

Testing positive

Updated January 13, 2022