The Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADxSM) initiative at NIH is accelerating development and distribution of COVID-19 tests across the country.

Get answers to some common questions about COVID-19 testing and learn more about how NIH is supporting the development of new and better tests to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Understanding COVID-19 Testing

How do I get tested?

If you have COVID-19 symptoms and want to get tested, contact your healthcare provider first. Your state health department’s website may also have information on local testing.

Find your state health department’s website

What are the types of COVID-19 tests?

viral, or diagnostic, test looks for current infection. There are two types of viral tests:

  • The antigen test (also called the “rapid test”) gives results in as little as 15 minutes. You are more likely to get a false negative result from the antigen test. If you have symptoms but get a negative test result from the antigen test, your doctor may give you a molecular test to confirm the results.

  • The molecular test can take up to a week to provide results.

An antibody test is designed to tell you whether you had an infection in the past.

Watch a video to learn more about COVID-19 tests

Can I get tested without a nasal swab?

A nasal swab is still the primary way to collect a sample to test for COVID-19. However, in some locations, a saliva sample can be used instead. Check with your healthcare provider about the options in your area.

Learn about new tests on the horizon

What progress has NIH made on COVID-19 testing?

Since April, NIH has moved quickly to support expansion of fast, accurate testing methods to help save lives and prevent further spread of COVID-19. Through its RADx initiative, NIH issued a challenge to the nation’s inventors and innovators to develop safe and easy-to-use tests for COVID-19. NIH has awarded nearly half a billion dollars in manufacturing contracts to help rapidly scale up the United States’ testing capacity. 

Learn about how the RADx-Tech program advanced diagnostic testing for COVID-19

COVID-19 Testing Resources

Learn more about tests and use a symptoms checker.

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Get information about how tests are regulated and what tests are currently approved.

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Read about where and how to get tested, how to deal with bills, and more

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