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General COVID-19 testing questions
Who should be tested for COVID-19?
The CDC recommends those with symptoms of COVID-19 who have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or who lives in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19 should contact their health care provider and be tested. The CDC overview of testing is intended to provide guidance and updates occasionally.
The CDC suggests giving the following patients high priority for testing:
- Hospitalized patients with symptoms
- Health care facility workers, workers in congregate living settings and first responders with symptoms
- Residents in long-term care facilities or other congregate living settings, including prisons and shelters, with symptoms
The CDC suggests prioritizing the following patients for testing:
- Persons with symptoms of potential COVID-19 infection, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, new loss of taste or smell, vomiting, diarrhea and/or sore throat
- Persons without symptoms who are prioritized by health departments or clinicians, for any reason, including but not limited to public health monitoring, sentinel surveillance or screening of other individuals without symptoms according to state and local plans
The CDC suggests testing individuals without symptoms:
- Persons with known or suspected exposure to COVID-19
- All babies born to women with COVID-19 regardless of signs of infections
- Persons without known or suspected exposure to COVID-19 in settings that house vulnerable populations in close quarters for extended periods of time and/or settings where critical infrastructure workers could be disproportionately affected
How can I access COVID-19 testing?
Patients who have concerns that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or may have symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their health care provider to determine the need for a test. The test will likely consist of a nasal or pharyngeal swab that is then sent to a laboratory. Results may be available on site depending on the type of test. Please visit the COVID-19 testing site for more information.
I asked for a COVID-19 test but my doctor said I don't need one. What are my options?
Your doctor is in the best position to advise if testing is needed based on your symptoms. With tests in limited supply, providers are using a strict set of guidelines to determine when testing is appropriate.
If your symptoms change, contact your doctor again.
Why are you no longer offering testing at the large-scale rapid-result sites?
As we have greatly expanded our testing capacity through an efficient and accessible network of store-based drive-thru testing sites, we have ceased operations at our five large-scale rapid-result testing sites, effective Saturday, June 27.
CVS Health is currently operating more than 4,500 COVID-19 testing sites across the country at select CVS Pharmacy locations and is partnering with community organizations, long-term care facilities, employers and universities to expand testing for additional populations.
COVID-19 testing at CVS Pharmacy locations
How is CVS Health supporting testing efforts in local communities?
CVS Health is uniquely positioned to play a vital role in supporting local communities and the overall health care system in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Our ability to coordinate the availability of COVID-19 testing bolsters states' efforts to manage the spread of the virus.
In March, CVS Health opened a pilot drive-thru COVID-19 test site in a parking lot at a CVS Pharmacy store in Shrewsbury, MA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This pilot helped inform the company's ability to improve upon and maximize drive-thru testing for patients.
In April, CVS Health worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and state governments in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island to help increase access to rapid-result COVID-19 testing at large-scale sites in publicly accessible areas, which were available through June 30. Rapid-result testing sites in underserved communities are anticipated to be open for testing through December 31.
Now CVS Health has expanded access to drive-thru COVID-19 testing and has established testing sites at more than than 4,500 locations across the country. Specimen samples from these drive-thru locations are sent to an independent, third-party lab. Results may take 2 to 3 days, or longer in some instances or in times of peak demand, and are viewable on the patient's MyChart account.* MyChart is a medical records software program that many health care professionals, including MinuteClinic® providers, use. It is free for the patient.
The drive-thru testing patient will receive an email with a link to view test results through their secure MyChart account.
How many COVID-19 testing locations will open up and where are they?
CVS Health created more than 4,500 store locations across the United States offering COVID-19 testing.
Go to the COVID-19 testing page to see locations and details.
Why are you expanding further?
Our pharmacies and MinuteClinic clinics are uniquely positioned to help address the pandemic and protect people's health. Building on the company's comprehensive efforts to help slow the spread of the virus, we can bring safe and effective testing options closer to home and help increase access to testing options for even more individuals. This allows us to continue to help slow the spread of the virus.
Will no-cost COVID-19 testing be available at all CVS Pharmacy locations? How are you selecting the CVS Pharmacy locations?
Testing will not be available at all CVS Pharmacy locations. These COVID-19 tests will not take place inside any retail locations, and CVS Pharmacy, HealthHUB and MinuteClinic will continue to serve customers and patients.
CVS Health currently has more than 4,500 testing locations across the country. Through this effort we are hoping to provide access in areas of the country that need additional testing and are selecting CVS Pharmacy locations with this criterion in mind.
How many COVID-19 tests will you be able to do per day at each site?
Based on the availability of supplies and lab capacity, each site can conduct between 20 and 50 tests per day.
How much does it cost to get a test? Is the test covered by insurance?
We accept insurance at the test sites. However, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act approved by Congress, patients should not have any out-of-pocket costs with their insurance. Uninsured patients will be covered under a program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Do people still need to make an appointment online to get a test?
Yes, patients need to make an appointment in advance online at CVS.com. Patients need to preregister, provide their insurance information as appropriate and verify their eligibility for testing. Once they have registered, the patient is provided with an appointment window for that same day or up to two days out.
Which criteria are you using to determine who can get a test?
COVID-19 testing will be available to eligible individuals meeting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, in addition to age guidelines. A physician's referral is not required.
Is testing available for health care workers and first responders?
Yes, first responders and health care workers are able to sign up if they believe they have been exposed through their work, if they have no symptoms but have a physician's referral, or if they are symptomatic.
What is the process when people arrive at the store for testing?
Patients are required to stay in their cars throughout the process. When a patient arrives at the store they will see clear signage directing them toward the pharmacy drive-thru window.
Once the patient arrives at the drive-thru window, a CVS Pharmacy team member will verify their appointment and identity and provide them with a test kit and instructions on how to properly perform a self-swab. The patient will also receive a packet of information on next steps to follow when the test results are available to them in a few days. The CVS Pharmacy team member will observe the self-swab process to ensure it is done properly. Once the patient has completed the self-swab, the patient will deposit the sample in a specifically designated and secure container outside the store.
Patient samples are then sent off-site to independent, third-party labs that are responsible for processing and delivering the results, which we then communicate to patients and are viewable through MyChart (see next question for more MyChart information).*
In select locations where there is no CVS Pharmacy drive-thru window, individuals with appointments will be directed to a location in the parking lot. They will be met by a CVS Pharmacy team member who will provide instructions and next steps.
The overall testing process is supervised and managed by a local MinuteClinic provider.
What type of test is performed?
MinuteClinic uses two types of COVID-19 testing to check for active infection. Rapid-result testing locations perform antigen testing, which returns results the same day. Lab testing locations perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which returns results within 2 to 3 days. If you are getting your testing for a specific purpose such as travel, please ensure you are selecting the proper test required by your airline, destination or other requiring organization. Certain travel destinations and airlines do not accept rapid-result testing.
We do not administer antibody tests, which indicate whether the patient has been infected in the past.
How and when will I get results?
Results for rapid testing are generally returned on the same day of specimen collection (rapid testing locations are limited). For samples sent to our lab partners, average turnaround time for receiving results is 2 to 3 days.
When results are ready, an email is sent to notify the patient to view results through the patient's secure MyChart account* MyChart is a medical records software program that many health care professionals, including MinuteClinic providers, use. It is free for the patient and accessible as a convenient smartphone app.
No-cost COVID-19 testing in your community
What is CVS Health doing to increase testing access for underserved communities?
More than half of CVS Health's testing sites are located in counties that serve moderate- to high-needs communities, as measured by the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index. The index tracks a variety of census variables, including poverty, lack of access to transportation, and crowded housing, that may weaken a community's ability to prepare for and recover from hazardous events like natural disasters and disease outbreaks.
Underserved and multicultural communities are being disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. To help address this issue, CVS Health has partnered with national organizations such as the National Medical Association; local community groups, including free and charitable clinics and community colleges; state governments; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand community-based testing in underserved areas in more than 10 cities.
These community-based test sites are located at the facilities of our partner organizations, enabling us to tap into their networks to expand testing in areas of greatest need and reach people who may not otherwise have easy access to testing. These testing sites are designed to help reduce barriers that may limit access to testing for local residents. For example:
- Appointments are made by phone, so lack of internet access is not a barrier.
- Each site can accommodate walk-up testing, so access to a vehicle is not required.
- Signage is offered in English and Spanish.
- Testing is available to patients at no cost.
Learn more about no-cost COVID-19 testing in the community
Can you give us the operational details of these community testing sites?
We currently have community-based testing locations in select states and are exploring additional opportunities with our partners to expand this testing into more areas of need.
Visit our no-cost COVID-19 testing page for location details, contact numbers and hours of operation.
How does the testing process work at these community sites?
Our community-based sites offer rapid-result COVID-19 testing to eligible individuals who meet criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in addition to age guidelines. A doctor's referral is not required. Patients will need to call the location in advance in order to schedule a same-day time slot for testing.
A vehicle is not required because testing can be accommodated in person and results will be provided on the spot. When the patient arrives at the testing site for their appointment, the nurse will collect a sample of nasal secretions using a nasal swab. The patient will then be directed to a waiting area to await the test results.
Will you be using the Abbott test?
The sample will be processed using the Abbott ID NOW™ COVID-19 test, which will deliver positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in as little as 13 minutes. Once the test result is available, a health care professional will locate the patient to give them the test results. This will enable patients to receive results on-site along with a treatment plan and direction on appropriate actions to take related to quarantine and exposure tracing.
How long will the process take per patient? How long will it take to get the results?
The process will take approximately 30 minutes from the collection of the swab to the delivery of the results.
Can anyone get a test?
To be eligible for testing, patients will need to meet criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in addition to age guidelines. Patients will need to preregister by calling the phone number for the specific site at which they wish to make an appointment.
Visit our no-cost COVID-19 testing page for location details, contact numbers and hours of operation.
How are patients notified if their appointments are canceled?
When an appointment is canceled because a site is closed unexpectedly, patients with scheduled appointments will receive a phone call to inform them about the cancellation and help them to reschedule.
Since you opened more than 4,500 testing sites at select CVS Pharmacy locations , why do you need these community sites?
CVS Health is uniquely positioned to play a vital role in helping support both local communities and the overall health care system in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working with our community partners is an important part of our comprehensive strategy to increase access to COVID-19 testing. This joint effort allows us to tap into the network of a trusted organization with strong community ties to further expand testing in areas of greatest need.
All of our community-based testing sites can accommodate walk-up testing, so access to a vehicle is not required. Appointments are made by phone so patients also do not need internet access to schedule an appointment. Testing is available to patients at no cost.