Daily testing back in high demand

  • Signage stands at the ready (foreground) in case COVID-19 testing at Barnett Park reaches capacity, as cars wait in line in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, July 29, 2021. The line stretched through the park for more than a mile out to West Colonial Drive near the Central Florida Fairgrounds. Orange County is under a state of emergency as coronavirus infections skyrocket in Central Florida. The Barnett Park site is testing 1,000 people a day and has closed early in recent days due capacity limits. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP) Joe Burbank

Monitor staff
Published: 9/24/2021 4:48:04 PM

With coronavirus cases surpassing springtime highs and school back in session, COVID-19 tests are back in high demand. The average number of COVID-19 tests performed a day grew from about 2,500 in early July to about 9,000 one day last week. 

Since the last time testing spiked last year, some significant things have changed. New Hampshire closed its state-run testing sites. About half of Granite Staters have been vaccinated. Home COVID tests have been authorized by the FDA. 

Here’s your guide to all things COVID testing: 

When should I get tested? 

According to CDC guidance, you should get tested in the following circumstances: 

■If you have symptoms of COVID-19

■If you know you’ve interacted with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Vaccinated people should get tested between 3 to 5 days after the exposure and wear a mask while inside public settings until they receive a negative test. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people should quarantine and get tested once immediately and again in 5-7 days. 

If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 but do not have symptoms and recovered from COVID in the last three months, you do not need to get tested. 

What kind of COVID-19 test should I sign up for? 

PCR tests are considered the “gold standard” of COVID-19 testing, providing highly accurate results even in people without symptoms. Results typically take one to three days to come back, though wait times may be longer or shorter depending on the test center’s demand. 

Rapid tests can provide results within 15 minutes of getting swabbed, however, the results are not as accurate as those from its PCR cousin. This test is known for having a high rate of false negatives— when the test comes back negative for COVID even when you actually have the virus. Rapid tests are the most accurate for people who already have symptoms (e.g. sore throat, runny nose). Some testing sites may not allow you to receive a rapid test if you do not have symptoms. 

If you’ve received a negative rapid test but still have symptoms, another test might be needed. 

How much money does a COVID-19 test cost? 

In almost all cases, COVID-19 tests are 100% free for U.S. residents. 

Most commercial insurance providers cover the cost of COVID tests without any copay, coinsurance, or deductible. Those without insurance are still able to get tested for free— before getting tested, you should confirm that the provider you will be seeing is willing to participate in the HRSA Uninsured program.

Where can I get a COVID test? 

COVID-19 tests are also available at most CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aide, and Convenient locations, free of charge. At-home testing kids can also be purchased at pharmacies and Walmart. 

A full list of testing locations in New Hampshire can be found here. Rapid testing locations are here

What should I expect when getting a test? 

At many testing sites, you will need an appointment to get a COVID-19 test. which you can usually sign up for by visiting the pharmacy or Convenient MD website. Once you arrive for your appointment, COVID testers will likely stick what looks like a long q-tip about 3 centimeters into your nose to collect a sample.  

If you have insurance, you’ll likely be asked to show your insurance card. If not, you’ll likely have to provide your social security number to bill the federal government for the test. 

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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