COVID-19 Testing Information

Content

Overview

Testing for COVID-19 is one of the most common questions asked of Marin Public Health. This page provides an overview of COVID-19 testing information. Click below to skip to a specific section:

Who Should Get Tested

Anyone experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should immediately call their medical provider and seek testing.

Marin County Public Health also recommends testing for some groups, even if they do not have symptoms, including:

  • All persons who were notified that they were exposed to someone who was confirmed to have COVID-19;
  • All workers serving in essential service roles (e.g., workers at grocery stores, food service / restaurants, gas stations, construction sites, hardware stores, pet stores, hotel facilities, child care centers, and other essential businesses defined in section 15.f of the Shelter-In-Place order.)
  • All persons who were notified by Marin Public Health as being high risk based on outbreak investigations; and
  • Certain occupations with higher risk of exposures, including some healthcare workers and first responders.

Where to Get Tested

Most healthcare providers offer testing to patients who meet testing criteria. Anyone needing testing can start by reaching out to their primary care provider.

Marin Public Health has issued new guidance to all healthcare providers expanding the criteria for testing for the virus.

Find a Testing Location

There are multiple testing options county-wide. If you are not able to obtain testing through your medical provider, free confidential testing is available in Marin and the Bay Area. Search for your nearest testing location by zipcode.

Marin Public Health is providing FREE COVID-19 testing at the following locations:

Testing for Underserved Communities

The State of California has joined with County of Marin and OptumServe to expand testing for underserved communities.  A dedicated testing site is available in San Rafael by appointment only.  Make an appointment at https://lhi.care/covidtesting. If you do not have internet access, call: 1-888-634-1123. This site is open to uninsured, underinsured, undocumented and homeless individuals. If you have medical insurance, OptumServe will bill your insurance company. Tests for uninsured individuals will be paid for by the state. 

Testing Capacity and Expansion

Testing is expanding throughout the County as capacity increases county-wide in the healthcare, public and private sectors.

The State of California’s Testing Taskforce is addressing barriers that have slowed testing expansion across the state and nationally. The Taskforce is working with private labs and healthcare providers, which operate most of the testing locations both locally and nationally, to expand capacity as rapidly as possible. The State is also vetting new testing technologies and making recommendations on which are appropriate for use.

Marin Public Health provides COVID-19 testing through its drive-through testing site (available by healthcare provider referral), a State Testing Taskforce-operated site in San Rafael, and a new testing site in Marin City.  In addition, Marin Public Health has established two mobile testing units, in collaboration with MarinHealth and Kaiser Permanente, to help detect new cases and manage outbreaks in high risk areas like nursing homes, senior living facilities, shelters and other congregate care settings.

Marin’s regional laboratory (The Napa-Solano-Yolo-Marin County Public Health Laboratory) is increasing its testing capability, while utilization of UCSF and state laboratories further Marin’s ability to increase testing. 

Types of COVID-19 Tests

Molecular Test

Serological Test

About

First type of test on the market and used by WHO and CDC. It is also known as Polymerise Chain Reaction (PCR) testing.

This antibody test is still in development. Unlike the molecular test, the serological test can identify those that were infected and have recovered.

How it's administered

Administered using a 6-inch nasal swab (although a saliva-based test may be on the market soon).

Administered using a blood sample (usually a finger prick)

Results

Result take a few hours to days but a rapid (less than an hour) test is in development.

For most methods, results take about 10-15 minutes

How it works

Detects viral genetic material, usually from your nasal passages.

Detects antibodies, which are proteins made by your body after you've been infected by COVID-19, in your blood.

How effective it is

There is a chance this test will deliver a FALSE result even if you do have COVID-19 (false negative).

Most of these tests have not yet been reviewed by the FDA.  A negative test does not rule out a past COVID-19 infection.

Important Information

If you have symptoms you should quarantine yourself even if you have a negative test result.

Antibody testing should not be used as the sole based to determine infection status.

 

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How Contact Tracing Relates to COVID-19 Testing

Marin Public Health has a team of "contact investigators" who play a crucial role in the COVID-19 response.  When a person tests positive for COVID-19, the team calls the person to gather a list of close contacts who are at high risk of exposure. Everyone on that list is then contacted to arrange for testing and quarantine in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.  While these close contacts are awaiting test results, they are commonly referred to as a Person Under Investigation (PUI).

In addition to gathering a list of close contacts, the contact investigation team evaluates symptoms and provides education regarding quarantine and/or isolation for COVID-19 infected persons, PUIs and any members of their households.

Here is some additional information from Marin's Public Health Officer about how contact tracing works and why it is important.

 

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Check this website and the CDC’s website often for the latest updates and guidance on testing in general for COVID-19.