Skip to cookie consent Skip to main content

About COVID-19 Testing

COVID-19 tests can be scheduled for symptoms, exposure, or elective reasons.

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.

Medical staff person preparing a Covid-19 test

Patients can now schedule a COVID-19 test directly in Patient Gateway. Tests can be scheduled for symptoms, exposure, or elective reasons. If you schedule a test, you will see results in Patient Gateway as soon as they are available. Results are available within 48 hour

You can find a tip sheet for help scheduling a COVID test (PDF) here.

If you do not have a Patient Gateway account, you can sign up by going to Patient Gateway and clicking "Enroll Now."

COVID-19 testing FAQs

When and why

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

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.

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 at Mass General Brigham

Patients can schedule a COVID-19 test directly in Patient Gateway. Tests can be scheduled for symptoms, exposure, or elective reasons. If you schedule a test, you will see results in Patient Gateway as soon as they are available. Results are available within 48 hours. You can find a tip sheet for help scheduling a COVID test here.

If there are no appointments available, please try a different location or check back later. Massachusetts and New Hampshire also have other testing options. If you live somewhere else, check your state website for resources. We also have community vans that offer limited COVID-19 tests on select days and times; no appointment needed. Please view the schedule (PDF) for when we will be in your neighborhood.

If you do not have a Patient Gateway account, you can sign up by going to Patient Gateway and clicking “Enroll Now.” You can also call your doctor’s office if you need to schedule a test without using Patient Gateway.

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. 

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

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.

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

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 >

Call your doctor’s office. You may be eligible for outpatient COVID treatment.

Updated March 17, 2022