Get tested in San Francisco

Have home test kits ready. Any time you feel sick or have a known exposure, get tested.

If you test positive, most treatments for Covid must start within 5 days of feeling sick.

Get tested


You should always get tested when you have symptoms for COVID-19.


You should also get tested when you’ve had close contact with someone who has Covid. Test 3 to 5 days after your exposure. Testing earlier to find out if you’re positive is optional.


If you test positive and are at higher risk of severe illness, you may be eligible for Covid medicines. See if you're at risk and how to get early treatment.


Also get tested when asked by your school, workplace, doctor, or the Department Public of Health.


Testing is a good idea before and after activities that put you or others at higher risk for Covid, like:

  • Large gatherings
  • Crowded indoor settings

Testing is also a good idea when you work somewhere with a higher risk of transmission, like:

  • Homeless shelters
  • Jails
  • Places where you have close contact with the public

See detailed testing guidance from the State of California.

Free and low cost tests

Health insurance must cover 8 home tests per person each month. Check your insurance company’s website to see how to get tests by pickup or reimbursement. 


Find free or low cost testing at pharmacies and community based sites.


Tests at San Francisco-run sites are free. But if you have health insurance, the City will bill your insurance.

Other info

Types of tests

Types of tests

There are 2 types of tests that can tell if you have  COVID-19 now:

  • Antigen tests
  • PCR or NAAT

You can get antigen and PCR or NAAT tests done in a clinic, test site, or lab.  

You can also do antigen and PCR or NAAT tests at home. These are called at-home or over-the-counter tests.

When antigen tests are better

When antigen tests are better

An antigen test is better than a PCR test when you want to end staying home after being sick or testing positive.

It’s also better when you have had a close contact with someone who has Covid and you had an infection with Covid in the last 90 days.

Antigen tests are better at picking up virus that is still infectious.

PCR tests can stay positive for longer than the infectious period.

However, antigen tests may miss early infection.  If you have symptoms or are a close contact and tested negative, test again in 12 to 24 hours.

There is also an antibody test. It tells you if you had Covid in the past and is done in a clinic or lab.

At-home testing

At-home testing

At-home tests tell you if you have COVID-19 now. They cannot tell you if you had an infection in the past.

They may miss early infection. If you have Covid symptoms and test negative, repeat your test in 12 to 24 hours.

Getting at-home tests

Get home tests over-the-counter in pharmacies or by mail.

Your health insurance must cover 8 home tests per person each month. Contact your insurer directly.

At-home tests can be rapid antigen or molecular tests (PCR/NAAT). The FDA has information on which antigen and PCR/NAAT self-tests to use.

What at-home tests can be used for

You might not be able to use an at-home test for healthcare purposes or travel. Check any healthcare or travel requirements before you use the test.

At-home tests may be used to return to work, school, or a non-healthcare setting. If your employer asks for a test, please contact your supervisor for instructions about how to report your test results.

There is no printout of your results with most at-home tests. The Department of Public Health (DPH) will not provide a letter of your results. Healthcare providers may not provide a letter because they did not see you do the test.

Testing positive

When you test positive using an at-home test:

  • You most likely have COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms
  • You don’t have to confirm the result by going to a lab, clinic, or testing site
  • Talk to a doctor right away; you do not need another test to seek treatment

You don’t have to report your positive result to the Department of Public Health.

See more information by CDC on at-home tests.

Your privacy

Your privacy

You do not need a doctor's note to schedule a test.

The personal info you provide is confidential. Your test result will be reported to the health departments in San Francisco, your home county, and the state.

If you shared the name of your doctor, your doctor will also get your results.

A parent or guardian must consent in person to testing a child under 13. The guardian will get the results.

Youth between 13 and 17 can get tested on their own. They can get their own test results.

Testing for travel

Testing for travel

For all international travel to the United States, you no longer need to get tested before your flight.

The CDC recommends that you should test before and after traveling, especially if you have been in a place where there is a high risk of exposure to COVID, no matter your vaccine status.

Get early treatment

If you test positive and are at higher risk of severe illness, you may be eligible for Covid medicines.

See if you're at risk and how to get early treatment.


The COVID-19 test detects if you have the virus at the time you take the test. It does not test for immunity or if you had the virus in the past.

If your test is negative, you must still be careful. You can still get infected. Or you could still have COVID-19, but the test does not show you are infected yet. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested again in 12 to 24 hours.

Have questions or need more help? Call 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.