COVID-19: Testing

Get Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests

You can pick up free at-home rapid antigen tests at NYC museums, zoos, libraries and other locations throughout the city.

To find a location near you, visit NYC At-Home COVID-19 Test Kit Pickup.

You can also order four free at-home rapid tests to be delivered to your home. Visit COVID.gov.


Testing remains an important part of reducing the spread of COVID-19. All New Yorkers should get tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms or were recently exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you test positive, call your provider or 212-COVID19 (212-268-4319) to discuss treatment options.

See below for more information about when to get tested, the types of COVID-19 tests available and how to interpret tests results, including what to do if you test positive.

When to Get Tested

Even if you are vaccinated, you should get tested:

  • Immediately if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Five days after having close contact (being within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period) with someone while they had COVID-19.

  • Before and after travel or attending a large gathering, especially if you or others are not vaccinated or up to date with your vaccine shots, or are at risk of severe COVID-19.

Retesting After a Positive Diagnostic Test

If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you generally should not get retested for COVID-19 for three months after your symptoms began of, if you had no symptoms, from the date you were tested, unless you develop new symptoms.

With molecular tests, such as PCR tests, you may continue to test positive for COVID-19, even though you are no longer contagious. If you develop new symptoms, talk to your health care provider.

Find a Testing Site

Many health care providers and pharmacies offer testing.

Here are some resources to help you find low to no cost testing:

  • COVID-19: Express Testing: Schedule an appointment at one of the Health Department's free Express testing locations, which usually return test results within a few hours. Testing is available regardless of immigration status.

  • NYC COVID-19 Test Site Finder: Find locations to pick up free at-home tests at over 200 locations.

  • NYC Health + Hospitals Testing Sites: NYC Health + Hospitals patients can make an appointment for testing, treatment or vaccination at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health by calling 1-844-NYC-4NYC.

At-home Testing

Most at-home tests allow you to test the sample yourself and get results in minutes. Some tests have you collect a nasal or saliva sample and send it to a laboratory.

Be sure to carefully read and closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You can also watch the below online instructional videos provided by the manufacturers before taking the test.

At-home testing may be less accurate than tests performed by a health care provider. The FDA recommends repeat testing after a negative result, even if you do not have symptoms. In some cases, you should go to a provider for a test to confirm your initial results.

Note: At-home test results may not be accepted for some purposes, such as employer or travel testing requirements.

Instructional Videos

General Guidance

Types of Tests

There are several different types of tests. Your health care provider can help you decide which type of test is best for you based on the reason for testing, such as recent exposure or presence of symptoms.

Viral Tests

PCR and Other Molecular Tests

Molecular tests, such as PCR tests, can detect the virus even if there is only a small amount in your system. Some people test positive with a PCR test weeks or months after having COVID-19, even though they are no longer contagious.

These tests look for genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). They usually require the specimen to be sent to a laboratory, which is why it may take a few days to receive results. A unique process used at COVID-19 Express sites allow for molecular tests to return results usually within a few hours.

Antigen Tests

Antigen tests (often called rapid tests) look for proteins on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Antigen tests usually can be processed at the testing site, or at home when using an at-home test, and results are ready quickly. Antigen tests may not detect the virus if you were infected recently or have small amounts of virus in your system. For this reason, there are times when you may need a follow-up test, such as when you have COVID-19 symptoms but tested negative.

Antibody Tests

Antibody tests check the blood for COVID-19 antibodies — special proteins that the body produces to help fight off infection. They require getting a blood sample through a finger stick or drawing blood from a vein in your arm.

A positive test result means that COVID-19 antibodies were detected in your blood. The antibodies could be from having had COVID-19 in the past, from vaccination or from both.

Antibody tests cannot test for immunity to COVID-19. They should not be used to decide whether to get vaccinated, as vaccination is recommended even if you have had COVID-19.


After a Positive Test

If you test positive for COVID-19, immediately separate yourself from others and contact your health care provider, who can talk to you about how best to manage the infection.

If you do not have a provider, call 212-COVID19 (212-268-4319).

For more information on what to do after you test positive, including possible treatment options, see COVID-19: When You Are Sick.

Additional Resources