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When to get tested for COVID-19
Get tested for COVID-19 if you feel sick, whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated. Common symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
- New loss of taste or smell.
If you are unvaccinated or 2 weeks have not passed after your final dose, you should get tested for COVID-19 if you:
- Have a known exposure, but have no symptoms. Marin Public Health will contact you if someone who has COVID-19 tells them they were in close contact with you.
- Work in a high-risk setting, such as a hospital or medical clinic, long-term care facility, homeless shelter or prison.
- 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.
If you do not meet this criteria but believe you need testing -- or need testing for travel or medical-related procedures -- please consult your insurance provider, medical provider or neighborhood medical clinic.
On this page
I'm vaccinated. Do I still need to get tested?
If you feel sick, you should still get tested for COVID-19.
You are fully vaccinated 2 weeks after your final dose. Until those 2 weeks have passed, you should continue to get tested if you work in a high-risk setting or experience frequent contact with the public.
What about false positive testing results?
No test is perfect, yet fortunately false positives are relatively rare. Marin County Public Health will determine that a positive test is a false positive only when
- The initial positive test is a rapid antigen test, and
- A subsequent molecular test (i.e. PCR test, is negative and collected within 24 hours of the initial positive rapid antigen test.
An initial positive PCR result cannot be overturned by subsequent negative PCR tests, even if collected on the same day.
My doctor told me I don't need to isolate or quarantine, but Marin Public Health says I do. What should I do?
Isolation and quarantine are legal public health orders and can't be overturned by your primary care provider. If your doctor disagrees with an isolation or quarantine order, please ask them to contact Marin County Public Health at (415) 473-7191 to address the situation.
Testing through your healthcare provider
If you have health insurance, schedule a test with your doctor. If you have symptoms or a known exposure, your healthcare provider is required by law to get you a test.
Contact your provider or neighborhood clinic to discuss your need for testing, including testing required for travel or medical procedures.
You can get a test at these sites without a referral from a doctor.
Appointment only (no drop-ins):
- Medical Center of Marin Urgent Care (Novato & Corte Madera)
- Dignity Health GoHealth Urgent Care (Strawberry / Mill Valley)
- CVS Pharmacy (Tiburon)
- Search for other testing locations in the San Francisco Bay Area
If you don’t have health insurance
Marin County residents can get free COVID-19 testing at community testing sites. Access is prioritized for people who do not have health insurance.
Travel-related and medical procedure testing are not allowed at community testing sites.
Community testing sites
LHI (Logistics Health Incorporated)
Appointments required. Call (888) 634-1123 or book an appointment online.
Marin Community Clinics - 1177 E. Francisco Blvd, San Rafael (open Tue-Sat from 7am to 7pm; closed from 12-1pm)
Advance appointments encouraged; walk-ins available as daily testing supply allows. Book an appointment online.
Bolinas Fire Station - 100 Mesa Road, Bolinas (open every other Monday, 9:30 to 10:30am)
Marin Health and Wellness Campus - 3260 Kerner Blvd, San Rafael (open Mondays, 10am to 4pm)
Armory "Jury Duty" Parking Lot - Armory Drive, near the Marin Civic Center (open Sun, Tue, Thu, 11am to 5pm; Mon, Wed, 8am to 2pm)
United Market - 100 Red Hill Avenue, San Anselmo (open Tuesdays, 10am to 4pm)
Downtown parking lot #2 - 50-98 Humboldt Ave, Sausalito (open Wednesdays, 10am to 4pm)
Tomales Fire Station - 599 Dillion Beach Road, Tomales (open every other Wednesday, 10am to 12pm)
Novato Library - 1720 Novato Blvd, Novato (open Fridays, 10am to 4pm)
Piper Park - 250 Doherty Drive, Larkspur (open Thursdays, 10am to 4pm)
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several COVID-19 at-home collection kits. At-home testing generally includes a brief questionnaire, and submitting a sample by mail. Results are usually available within 72 hours. Most insurance carriers cover the cost of at-home testing.
FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 test kits
WARNING: The FDA has warned of companies selling fake or unproven COVID-19 tests. If you order an at-home test kit online, make sure it's authorized by the FDA.
Before and after travel
Some states and countries require a negative COVID-19 viral test or proof of vaccination before entry. These tests typically must be completed within 24-72 hours before arrival.
Conditions for entry vary by destination. Research the latest travel and health restrictions for your planned destination (or verify requirements with your airline) prior to scheduling your COVID-19 test.
Some destinations – such as Hawaii – only accept test results from select providers. Before scheduling your COVID-19 test, check with your test provider to see if they meet the required test result certification.
There are several COVID-19 test providers in Marin County or at local airports that provide travel-related testing (this is not an exhaustive list of travel-test options):
Medical and dental procedures
Some healthcare facilities require a negative COVID-19 viral test before undergoing a medical, dental or surgical procedure. This is because most procedures involve close contact between you and your practitioner.
Confirm testing and test result requirements with your medical provider before scheduling your COVID-19 test.
Test result timing
Getting your test results back varies greatly by the company, provider, and laboratory performing the COVID-19 test. On average, you can expect to receive your test results within 2-3 business days. Some medical providers are able to get results faster.
Results may be provided to you by phone, email or text message, depending on the provider. You should confirm your preferred communication method when scheduling your test.
Types of COVID-19 tests
There are different types of tests – diagnostic tests and antibody tests.
Diagnostic tests can show if you have an active COVID-19 infection and need to take steps to quarantine or isolate yourself from others. Molecular and antigen tests are types of diagnostic tests that can detect if you have an active COVID-19 infection. Samples for diagnostic tests are typically collected with a nasal or throat swab, or saliva collected by spitting into a tube.
Antibody tests look for antibodies in your immune system produced in response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection.
Marin Public Health has a team of "contact investigators" who play a crucial role to stop the spread of COVID-19. 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. 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 their symptoms. They also provide information about quarantine and/or isolation to people with COVID-19, close contacts, and members of their households.