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A doctor’s note on Covid-19 testing

LA County Department of Health Services Dr. Erika Flores Uribe, at LAC+USC Medical Center, Thursday, April 30, 2020.

Photo: LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH (Photo / Michael Owen Baker) / Courtesy

1. How does getting tested for COVID-19 help me prevent the spread of the virus?
Getting tested for COVID-19 helps you know if you have coronavirus and prevents it from spreading to your family, friends and community. If you test positive, you must isolate yourself so that you do not infect other people. Tell the people you’ve been with to quarantine and get tested. Here’s how we can slow the spread of the virus and prevent future waves of COVID-19.

2. Are the types of COVID-19 tests different in their accuracy? If so, which one is the best?
There are two main types of COVID-19 tests: molecular and antigen. Molecular tests (commonly called “PCR tests”) are generally more accurate. They are processed in a laboratory and you will receive your results in a few days. Antigen tests, sometimes called “rapid tests,” can be processed anywhere, and results are available in about 20 minutes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends having multiple antigen tests over several days to improve the chances of identifying infections.

And remember: regardless of the type of COVID-19 test you choose, you have to give a good quality sample to get accurate results. Obtaining your sample by a trained healthcare professional will help ensure that the sample is of high quality. If you take the nose or mouth sample yourself, be sure to follow all instructions carefully.

3. How can I get tested if my doctor’s office does not offer COVID-19 testing or has no appointments available?
If you can’t get an appointment or if you can’t reach your doctor, visit covid19.lacounty.gov/testing. This website has a language selector and you can use it to find a place near you where they offer free testing. Although you don’t need to make an appointment at many of the government-run testing centers, making an appointment will help you wait less time.

4. If I have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, should I get tested regularly even if I have no symptoms? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested, even if they have already been vaccinated or had the virus before. And don’t forget: even if you’re vaccinated, you should get tested 3-5 days after being around someone who has been diagnosed with or could have COVID-19.

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