Get tested in San Francisco

Any time you feel sick or have a known exposure, get tested.

Get tested


Get tested when any of these apply:

  • When you have Covid-19 symptoms
  • When you’ve had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, test 5 days after your exposure. Testing earlier to find out if you’re positive is optional
  • When asked by your school, workplace, doctor, or the Department Public of Health


Think about getting tested in these situations:

  • Before and after activities that put you or others at higher risk for COVID-19, like attending large gatherings or being in crowded indoor settings
  • When you work somewhere with a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, like homeless shelters, jails, and settings with close contact with the public. See detailed testing guidance from the State
  • Right after a close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Earlier treatments might be open to you, and you can let anyone exposed to you know sooner if your test is positive

For travel

No matter your vaccine status:

When you’re not vaccinated:

COVID-19 symptoms

  • Fever over 100.4° Fahrenheit or 38.0° Celsius 
  • Chills (shivering a lot) 
  • Cough 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Fatigue or soreness 
  • Loss of smell or taste 
  • Sore throat 
  • Headache 
  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Diarrhea, feeling sick to your stomach, or throwing up

Your child does not have to get tested if they:

  • They only have a runny nose
  • They have had no close contact with someone with COVID-19


Cost and privacy


  • Get 4 free rapid antigen tests for your household at
  • Some places offer tests for free and do not require insurance
  • Tests at San Francisco-run sites are free. But if you have health insurance, the City will bill your insurance


  • 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

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/NAAT tests done in a clinic, test site, or lab.


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


An antigen test is better than a PCR test when:

  • You want to end isolation   
  • You have a close contact to someone with COVID-19 but you had an infection with COVID-19 in the last 90 days

This is because antigen testing is better at picking up virus that is still infectious. PCR tests can stay positive for longer than the infectious period.


Antigen tests may miss early infection.  If you have symptoms or are a close contact and tested negative, test again in 1-2 days.


There is also an antibody test. This test tells you if you  had COVID-19 in the past. These are done in a clinic or lab.


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.

Get home tests over-the-counter in pharmacies or by mail. You can also get 4 free rapid antigen tests for your household at

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.

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.

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
  • Let your doctor know about your result
  • You don’t have to report your positive result to the Department of Public Health

The San Francisco Department of Public Health has more information on when to use at-home self-tests.


About testing partners

Color is a health tech company providing a high volume COVID-19 test lab for multiple sites and mobile testing in SF.

One Medical is a national primary care practice. They operate numerous test sites throughout the US.

Optum provides COVID-19 testing at over 80 sites across CA, including City College.

Carbon Health is a tech-enabled healthcare provider with clinics across CA, virtual care in multiple states, and COVID-19 testing nationwide.


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 later, you can get tested again.

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