COVID-19 Testing Information

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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

To be eligible for testing at most testing sites in Marin County, you must meet one of the following:

  • You are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, including including fever, chills, cough, congestion, sore throat, difficulty breathing, headache, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, or new loss of taste or smell;
  • You were notified by Marin Public Health as being high risk or a "close contact" to a person confirmed to have COVID-19;
  • You work in a high-risk setting, such as a hospital or medical clinic, long-term care facility, homeless shelter or prison; OR
  • You work in an occupation where you experience frequent contact with the public on a daily basis, including jobs as first responders, teachers, personal caregivers, housekeepers, construction workers, food service / restaurant workers, gas station and grocery store workers.

Prioritizing testing helps ensure those patients with the highest risk of infection are quickly identified and can isolate, especially when testing and lab processing are in high demand.

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Where to Get Tested

If you are experiencing symptoms or meet the criteria above, your first stop for testing should be your medical provider or local medical clinic.  All health care facilities in Marin County are required to offer COVID-19 testing and most providers offer testing to patients who meet the testing criteria listed under "Who Should Get Tested"  on this page.  Contact your primary care physician to discuss your need for testing. Some of the more common medical providers in Marin County are listed below. Click on the a link below to learn more about testing at their facility. Be sure to inquire with your personal doctor to confirm the best location for you to be tested.

The following locations do not require a doctor referral for testing. However, testing availability is prioritized for people who meet the criteria listed under "Who Should Get Tested" on this page. Click on the name of a testing provider below for details about appointment availability, cost, and other requirements.

Testing at sites listed below is by appointment only (no drop-ins).

In addition to Marin County, there are other self-referral testing sites throughout the Bay Area.  Click on the button below to search for your nearest testing site by zip code.

 

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. 

 

When will I receive my test results?

Return of test results varies greatly by the company/provider performing the COVID-19 test and the laboratory used to analyze and confirm the results.  On average, you can expect to receive your test results within 4-7 business days, however, some medical providers are able to obtain results more quickly. Results may be delivered by phone, email or text message -- depending on the company/provider performing the test. Be sure to confirm your desired communication preferences when scheduling your test so the company/medical provider can reach you as soon as your test results are available.

 

Why am I unable to schedule a testing appointment more than 7 days in advance?

The dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks has led to increased demand for diagnostic testing in Marin. Testing capacity across Marin is dependent on local conditions, such as the emergence of hot spots, increased hospitalizations, and availability of testing supplies

Test locations that previously booked appointments more than 7 days in advance have experienced a steady "no show" rate. While factors vary, its assumed that individuals who were booking appointments two weeks in advance forgot to cancel when they found an earlier appointment time. This is an additional strain on an already stretched system. Many test providers are now only booking 7 days in advance to reduce the chance of abandoned or forgotten appointments.

If you booked a testing appointment you no longer need, please cancel the appointment (you can usually find a link or phone number to contact your testing provider in your confirmation email). By releasing that appointment time, you are giving your neighbor the opportunity to be tested.

Although a test site may not show any available tests in the next couple of days, we encourage you to continually check back for new availability as appointments are cancelled or rescheduled.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions about COVID-19 testing in Marin County, including what to do if you test positive? Please visit our "Frequently Asked Questions" page to answer your testing -related questions.

 

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 Polymerase 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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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. 

 

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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