Wondering How To Get Tested for COVID-19? We've Got Answers

Information on testing for the new coronavirus has been confusing at best. We break down what to do step by step, and we've got all the state hotlines, too..

by Lara DeSanto Health Writer

You’ve got that dry cough and unmistakable fever. First thought? It’s COVID-19, of course. Possibly, but you can’t know for sure unless you get tested. But how exactly do you even go about that? We’ve got the answers—plus a state-by-state guide to the COVID-19 hotlines so you know exactly who to call for more info.

Can Anyone Be Tested for COVID 19?

No. While you may want to know right away whether your illness is actually COVID-19 or something else, it’s unfortunately not that simple. Currently, in the United States, there’s not an across-the-board recommendation that everyone with symptoms get tested. And there’s no recommendation that people without symptoms be tested either.

Who Should Ask About Testing?

If you have the symptoms—fever of 100.4 degrees fahrenheit, dry cough, or shortness of breath—and think you have been exposed to the virus, seek out testing. This is especially important if you’re in a high-risk group—you’re older or you have an underlying chronic condition like diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, or are immunocompromised.

According to the CDC high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

  • People aged 65 years and older

  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility

Other high-risk conditions could include:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

  • People who have heart disease with complications

  • People who are immunocompromised, including those undergoing cancer treatment and those who take immune-suppressing medications

  • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [(BM]I)≥40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk

  • People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk.

Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune-weakening medications, including those used for chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and multiple sclerosis.

What’s the First Step to Getting Tested for COVID 19?

The first thing you should do is call your health care provider, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yes, call—or email—don’t just walk into your doc’s office without giving them a heads up that you may be infected. If you don’t have a regular primary care provider, you can contact a local urgent care center near you or call your state’s COVID-19 hotline number (listed below). Or you can try a telemedicine platforms like Forward or Ro, which remotely connect you with doctors who can assess your symptoms.

Over the phone or email, tell the provider your situation—what your symptoms are, when they began, and whether you’ve come into known contact with anyone with a COVID-19 diagnosis.

“Remote assessments are the first step, and the best way to avoid overcrowding sources that are offering swab tests,” says Nate Favini, M.D., medical lead at Forward, a primary-care practice with locations in several major U.S. cities. “If it is determined that you are high risk from a remote assessment, you’ll be advised to get further testing.” Your doctor will use their best judgment to decide whether to approve you for testing. According to CDC guidelines, the factors they consider include:

  • Whether your symptoms are mild or severe

  • Whether you are in a high-risk group for severe COVID-19 complications

  • Whether you have had known contact with a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in the 14-day period before your symptoms began

  • Whether you have a history of travel in certain geographic areas in the 14-day period before your symptoms began

Your doctor may test you for other possible causes of your symptoms, like the flu, to rule those out before moving on to COVID-19 testing, the CDC says. If your doctor approves you for testing, you’ll receive a written or digital order to present at the testing site.

Where Can I Get Tested?

Once you’re approved for testing, your doctor will give you details on where the testing will take place. “You should also contact your local health department for advice if your doctor has not done so already,” says Dr. Favini.

Ultimately, though, where you live largely determines the testing options available for you. Some doctors are able to swab your nose and throat in their office. In some states, like New York and Colorado, you may go to a drive-through testing center (more of these centers are on the way). Or you may be directed to a local hospital or private lab for screening.

Wherever you go, though, remember: You can’t just walk into the nearest lab or hop in line at the drive-through center and request testing—you need that order from your doctor first to prove that they’ve approved you.

In the coming days and weeks, testing options and availability may continue to change as the country works to better combat the pandemic. In fact, home testing kits may soon become available. EverlyWell, a home-testing company, announced that they will begin offering a home testing kit for COVID-19 on March 23, according to a report in Time. As part of the service, a telemedicine doctor will review your symptoms and decide whether to prescribe you the test.

Whether you're able to get tested or not, the advice if you have symptoms is the same: "If you have been exposed to a confirmed case or are concerned you may have been exposed to the virus, it’s best to self-quarantine for at least 14 days,” says Dr. Favini. “Anyone who has symptoms, whether or not you end up getting confirmation that you have COVID or not, should stay home and avoid exposing others.”

Your State-by-State Guide to COVID-19 Testing Information

CDC COVID 19 Hotline: 1-800-CDC-INFO

State & Territorial Health Department Websites

Alabama

Online: Alabama Department of Public Health

By phone: 888-264-2256 or call 2-1-1 or text 888-421-1266

Alaska

Online: Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Arizona

Online: Arizona Department of Health Services

By phone: 1-844-542-8201

Arkansas

Online: Arkansas Department of Health

By phone: 800-803-7847

California

Online: California Department of Public Health

By phone:

Coachella Valley COVID-19 Hotline: 760-TEST988 (or 760-837-8988) (Provided by Eisenhower Health)

County of San Bernardino COVID-19 Hotline: 909-387-3911

Colorado

Online: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

By phone: 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911

Connecticut

Online: Connecticut Official State Website

By phone: 860-972-8100 or toll-free 833-621-0600

Delaware

Online: Delaware Division of Public Health

By phone: 1-866-408-1899 or TTY at 1-800-232-5460

District of Columbia

Online: DC’s Coronavirus website

Florida

Online: Florida Department of Health

By phone: 1-866-779-6121

Georgia

Online: Georgia Department of Public Health

By phone: 844-442-2681

Hawaii

Online: Hawaii Department of Health

Idaho

Online: Idaho’s coronavirus website

By phone: Call 2-1-1 or your local public health district

Illinois

Online: Illinois Department of Public Health

By phone: 1-800-889-3931

Indiana

Online: Indiana State Department of Health

By phone: 317-233-7125 or 317-233-1325 after hours

Iowa

Online: Iowa Department of Public Health

By phone:

For general COVID-19 information and questions: 319-384-8819

For patients with COVID-19 and flu symptoms: 319-384-9010

Kansas

Online: Kansas Department of Health and Environment

By phone: 1-866-534-3463

Johnson County COVID-19 Hotline: 913-715-2819

Finney County COVID Hotline: 620-272-3600

Kentucky

Online: Kentucky Department for Public Health

By phone: 1-800-722-5725

Louisiana

Online: Louisiana Department of Health's coronavirus website

By phone: Louisiana 211 Network by dialing 211 or text LACOVID to 898-211

Maine

Online: Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention

By phone: Maine's 211 system by calling 2-1-1 or 1-866-811-5695; or text your ZIP code to 898-211

Maryland

Online: Maryland Department of Health's coronavirus website

By phone: Prince George's County Health Department COVID-19 Hotline: 301-883-6627

Maryland Department of Health COVID-19 Hotline: 410-767-6871

Massachusetts

Online: Massachusetts coronavirus website

By phone: Massachusetts state 2-1-1 line

Michigan

Online: Michigan coronavirus website

By phone: 1-888-535-6136

Minnesota

Online: Minnesota Department of Health

By phone: 651-201-3920

Mississippi

Online: Mississippi Department of Health

By phone: 1-877-978-6453

Missouri

Online: Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

By phone: 877-435-8411

Montana

Online: Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

By phone: 1-888-333-0461 or contact your county or tribal health department.

Nebraska

Online: Department of Health and Human Services

By phone: 402-552-6645

Nevada

Online: Nevada Health Response

By phone:

Southern Nevada Health District's Information Line at 702-759-INFO

Washoe County COVID-19 Hotline: 775-328-2427

Nevada Statewide COVID-19 Hotline: 1-800-860-0620

New Hampshire

Online: New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

By phone: New Hampshire's 211 system by calling 2-1-1 or call 603-271-4496

New Jersey

Online: New Jersey Department of Health

By phone: 1-800-222-1222

New Mexico

Online: New Mexico Department of Health

By phone: 1-855-600-3453

New York

Online: New York Department of Health

By phone: 1-888-364-3065

North Carolina

Online: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

By phone: 866-462-3821

North Dakota

Online: North Dakota Department of Health

By phone: 1-866-207-2880

Ohio

Online: Ohio Department of Health

By phone: 833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634

Oklahoma

Online: Oklahoma State Department of Health

By phone: 877-215-8336

Oregon

Online: Oregon Health Authority

By phone: Call 2-1-1

Pennsylvania

Online: Pennsylvania Department of Health

By phone: 1-877-724-3258

Puerto Rico

Online: Department of Salud Gobierno De Puerto Rico website

By phone: 787-999-6202

Rhode Island

Online: Rhode Island Department of Health

By phone: 401-222-8022

South Carolina

Online: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

By phone: 1-855-472-3432

South Dakota

Online: South Dakota Department of Health

By phone: 1-800-977-2880

Tennessee

Online: Tennessee Department of Health

By phone: 877-857-2945

Texas

Online: Texas Health and Human Services Department

By phone: : 1-877-570-9779

Utah

Online: Utah’s state website for coronavirus

By phone: 1-800-456-7707

Vermont

Online: Vermont Department of Health

By phone: 802-440-8844

Virginia

Online: Virginia Department of Health

By phone: 877-ASK-VDH3

Washington

Online: Washington State Department of Health

By phone: 1-800-525-0127

West Virginia

Online: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources

By phone: 1-800-887-4304

Wisconsin

Online: Wisconsin Department of Health Services

By phone: (608) 720-5300

Wyoming

Online: Wyoming Department of Health

By phone: Wyoming COVID-19 Health Care Provider Only Hotline: 888-996-9104

Lara DeSanto
Meet Our Writer
Lara DeSanto

Lara is a former digital editor for HealthCentral, covering Sexual Health, Digestive Health, Head and Neck Cancer, and Gynecologic Cancers. She continues to contribute to HealthCentral while she works towards her masters in marriage and family therapy and art therapy. In a past life, she worked as the patient education editor at the American College of OB-GYNs and as a news writer/editor at WTOP.com.