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About COVID-19 Testing

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. Home-based testing by antigen is the most convenient way to test for COVID-19.

Medical staff person preparing a Covid-19 test

Our COVID-19 testing sites closed as of December 16, 2022. Self-scheduling through Patient Gateway is no longer be available. If you are having symptoms and are concerned about COVID, you can take a home antigen test, find a testing site in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, or contact your care team.

COVID-19 testing FAQs

When and why

Home-based testing by antigen is increasingly the most convenient way to test 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.

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's recommendation, 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

Residential households in the U.S. can order 4 more free home rapid antigen COVID-19 tests. Each household is eligible to receive one order. See the COVID.gov website FAQs for more information. You can order these tests online. Or, call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to place orders by phone. Hours are 8 AM to 8 PM (ET) Monday-Friday and 8 AM to 5 PM (ET) Saturday and Sunday.

You can also buy home COVID-19 tests at many retail pharmacies or online. Many insurance companies cover the cost of antigen COVID-19 tests. Below are some options to pick up or order COVID-19 tests:

For more information about insurance reimbursement for antigen COVID-19 tests, please see the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.

If you are unable to access home antigen testing for COVID-19, you should contact your care team.

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.

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 continue to take precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

Testing positive

High-risk conditions for severe COVID-19 include undergoing treatment for cancer, currently taking medications for transplant, or immunosuppressant medications for other conditions. Other high-risk conditions, including having chronic lung, kidney, or liver disease; diabetes; HIV; obesity; and age 65 years or older, may predispose you to worse symptoms from COVID-19 or influenza. The CDC has more information.

If you have one or more conditions that put you at high-risk for severe COVID-19, this may make you eligible for outpatient COVID-19 therapies if you get COVID.

  • If you test positive and have mild symptoms, stay home and isolate.

  • If you have moderate symptoms, call your doctor.

  • If you have severe symptoms, go to the emergency room.

Read more about what you should do if you test positive >

If you are at high risk for severe disease, then you should either contact your doctor’s office to ask about COVID-19 treatment or utilize free telehealth appointments available through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Appointments are available between 8 am and 10 pm.

If you live in another state, including New Hampshire, you can use the national therapeutics locator to find locations.

Updated December 14, 2022