If you are looking to get back to work or school but need a negative COVID test, you can get it done at your local CVS and likely get it free of charge even without insurance. CVS has expanded the amount of rapid testing they have available, so you will be able to get your results that same day as well. If you start to show symptoms of COVID-19, it’s important to get tested within the first 5 days even if you plan to stay at home.
How to get tested
You will need an appointment for testing at CVS which you can book online, you will need to wear a face mask, and you will need to follow directions at the facility from either signage or CVS staff. You may be asked to remain in your car, go to a dedicated tent or other outdoor structure, or you may need to enter the pharmacy via a specially designated door. Do not enter the main part of the CVS store, especially if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID.
What is the difference between the traditional test and the rapid test for COVID-19?
What we think of as the ‘traditional’ COVID test is the PCR method, which stands for polymerase chain reaction. This method looks for the genetic material created by the virus in your system and is quite accurate, however it does require that your test sample be sent to a lab for examination so there can be delays in getting your test results. For this test they use a long swab to get material from the back of your nasal cavity.
The ‘rapid’ test is an antigen test, in this one they are looking for the proteins created by the virus. These tests do not need to be sent to a lab for analysis so you are able to get your results in under an hour, hence the name ‘rapid’. You will need to do either a nasal or throat swab for this method as well.
Is the rapid test accurate?
Yes and no. The PCR method is considered the most accurate way of detecting if a person has the virus or not, especially if the person is not exhibiting any symptoms. The reason the rapid test is not considered as accurate is because the false negative rate can be as high as 50%, however the false positive rate is extremely low. The earlier in your symptoms that you take the rapid test (within 5 days) the more accurate it will be as well.
So if you take a rapid test and it says you are COVID positive, then you most likely are. If you get a negative result but you have symptoms, then you should get a PCR test done as well just to be sure. It’s also possible that you may have the flu or strep throat instead of COVID, both of which they can test for at CVS as well.
Who can get a COVID-19 rapid test free of charge?
If your employer or educational facility is a part of the Return Ready program, you will be eligible for a rapid test without having to pay anything out of your own pocket as it will be paid for by your school or employer. You are also eligible for free testing if you meet the CDC testing criteria. If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or you have a had close contact with someone who tested positive (regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not) you are eligible for free rapid testing. If you have recently been around a lot of people due to travel or any other reason where it was not possible to stay 6 feet apart then you can also get the test free of charge. If you have been asked or referred to get tested by your healthcare provider or a local or state health department then you will also be able to get tested at no charge.
What happens if I test positive?
If you do happen to get a positive test, your CVS can advise you on next steps as well as possible medications that you can take to help ease symptoms. It’s not recommended to go to the hospital unless you are having difficulty breathing, feel pressure or pain in your chest, have severe vomiting or diarrhea, are feeling confused or extremely fatigued.
The best thing you can do is stay at home, get lots of rest & fluids, take over the counter medication to keep your fever down if you have one, and try to isolate from other people and pets in your home if possible.