COVID-19 Testing FAQs

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is sharing answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 testing.

Questions are organized into the following sections:

  • General information about COVID-19 testing
  • Testing and the COVID-19 vaccine
  • RIDOH’s Confirmatory testing protocol
  • In-school testing
  • Testing information for travelers

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General Information About COVID-19 Testing

There are several ways to get tested for COVID-19 in Rhode Island. Click here to find the test site closest to you.

The State of Rhode Island will cover the cost of COVID-19 testing for anyone without insurance who gets tested at a State-run test site.

Some of the respiratory clinics and pharmacies listed here offer free COVID-19 testing.

  • There may be a cost associated with testing at locations that are not directly operated by the State, like retail pharmacies or medical offices.
  • When you make an appointment, confirm that the site provides free testing and related services for people without health insurance.

PCR test: This type of test is sent to a lab for processing. Results are ready in one to two days. 

Rapid antigen test: This type of test is not sent to a lab for processing. Results are provided at the test site. If you leave the test site before your result is ready, you can get a copy on portal.ri.gov/results.

Testing and the COVID-19 Vaccine

No, you do not need to get tested for COVID-19 prior to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or have known current COVID-19 infection, you should not get vaccine until after you have completed your isolation or quarantine requirements. Learn more about testing and the COVID-19 vaccine.

Because there’s a small chance you may still get infected and spread the virus to others, continue to take part in required and optional testing at your workplace and elsewhere once you’ve gotten any COVID-19 vaccine. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate at home and get tested. If you test positive for COVID-19, you must still isolate for 10 days after your symptoms start or after your test date if you have no symptoms.

No. None of the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the US cause you to test positive on viral tests (for example a nasal swab), which are used to see if you have a current infection.

If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

RIDOH’s Confirmatory Testing Protocol

Yes. You may have COVID-19 even if you don’t have symptoms.

Your confirmatory test must be a lab-processed nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. You cannot use a rapid NAAT or PCR test or an at-home NAAT or PCR test to confirm your rapid antigen test result.

Stay home and away from others while you wait for your PCR test result.

  • If your confirmatory test result is negative, you are not infected with COVID-19 and may return to school or work. Contact tracing is not needed. Close contacts do not need to quarantine.

  • If your confirmatory test result is positive, you have COVID-19 and should isolate at home. Contact tracing is needed. Close contacts should quarantine. More information is available at covid.ri.gov/whattodo.

Learn more about RIDOH's confirmatory testing protocol. 

It is highly recommended that you get your confirmatory test on the same day you had your rapid antigen test. But results from confirmatory tests that are collected within 48 hours may be accepted as a confirmatory test result.

If you do not get your recommended confirmatory test within 48 hours after your rapid test, RIDOH will consider your positive rapid antigen test result final and start contact tracing.

Learn more about RIDOH's confirmatory testing protocol. 

Any State-run test site can give you a PCR test to confirm your rapid antigen test result. If you leave the test site before your rapid antigen test result is ready, you can schedule a follow-up PCR test at portal.ri.gov or by calling 401-222-8022. 

PCR tests are sent to a lab. Results are usually ready in 1 to 2 days on portal.ri.gov/results. It is very important that you stay home and away from others as much as possible while you wait for your results. Do not go to school or work.

If you got a positive result on your rapid antigen test at a Pre K-12 school, you can go to any State-run test site to get a PCR test.

In-School Testing

Contact your child’s school or district to find out if COVID-19 testing is available. If testing is available, you can complete a consent form to allow your child to participate in testing. Students 16 and older do not need a signed consent form to get tested at school.

Learn more about testing in Pre K-12 schools.  

The Rhode Island Department of Health recommends COVID-19 testing for students in Pre K-12 schools because:

  • Students can have COVID-19 without any symptoms but can still spread the infection to other students.
  • Testing in Pre K-12 schools can identify students who are infected and need to isolate at home to protect other students from getting COVID-19.

Learn more about the different types of tests that are available to Pre K-12 schools in Rhode Island.

Yes. Your child may have COVID-19 even if they do not have symptoms. Your child should get a PCR test to confirm their results. Your child should stay home and away from others as much as possible while they wait for their PCR test result.

  • If the PCR test result is negative, your child can end isolation and return to school.
  • If the PCR result is positive, your child should continue isolating for 10 days from the date of the first test. You and anyone else who lives with your child should also get tested and stay home from school or work.
  • If your child does not get the recommended PCR test within 48 hours after their rapid test, RIDOH will consider their positive rapid result final and start contact tracing.

COVID-19 Testing for Travelers

You’re no longer required to quarantine or get tested upon your arrival in Rhode Island whether or not you're vaccinated. 

To lower the chances of catching and spreading COVID-19, RIDOH recommends all travelers follow quarantine and testing guidance from the CDC. To learn more about Rhode Island’s quarantine and testing recommendations for travelers, visit covid.ri.gov/travel.

Always watch for symptoms for 14 days after travel. If you develop symptoms, isolate at home away from others, and get tested right away

If you are getting tested before or after travel because you have symptoms or would like to participate in asymptomatic COVID-19 screening, you can schedule a free COVID-19 test at a State-run test site. Health insurance is accepted but not required. Results from State-run test sites are not guaranteed to meet testing requirements for travel outside of Rhode Island. 

 

Check with the health department in the state or country you are traveling to for quarantine guidance and testing requirements.

  • Some locations and airlines require that travelers provide proof of a negative test result taken within 72 hours prior to their arrival. 
  • Some locations and airlines may not accept at-home tests as proof of a negative result. 
  • Since some locations and airlines require a lab report as proof of a negative result, RIDOH recommends travelers schedule a PCR test. The result of this test is usually ready in two days. Make sure you have enough time to get your test result before you travel
  • Rhode Islanders travelling to Hawaii should schedule a COVID-19 test at a location that meets Hawaii’s travel partner criteria. Tests processed through CVS or Walgreens pharmacies meet Hawaii’s requirements. Tests processed through Rhode Island's COVID-19 testing program will not qualify.

If you are getting tested before or after travel because you have symptoms or would like to participate in asymptomatic COVID-19 screening, you can schedule a free COVID-19 test at a State-run test site.

Results from State-run test sites are not guaranteed to meet testing requirements for travel outside of Rhode Island. If you are getting tested before or after travel because you need test results within a strict timeframe or documentation more detailed than a standard lab report, you may need to be tested elsewhere. Travelers are encouraged to find testing options that can meet the requirements of their destination, layover, or airline. For more information about testing options in Rhode Island, visit covid.ri.gov/testing.

Check with the health department in the state or country you are traveling to for testing requirements.

  • Some locations and airlines require that travelers provide proof of a negative test result taken within 72 hours prior to their arrival. 
  • Some locations and airlines may not accept at-home tests as proof of a negative result. 
  • Since some locations and airlines require a lab report as proof of a negative result, RIDOH recommends travelers schedule a PCR test. The result of this test is usually ready in two days. Make sure you have enough time to get your test result before you travel
  • Rhode Islanders travelling to Hawaii should schedule a COVID-19 test at a location that meets Hawaii’s travel partner criteria. Tests processed through CVS or Walgreens pharmacies meet Hawaii’s requirements. Tests processed through Rhode Island's COVID-19 testing program will not qualify.

For more information, visit covid.ri.gov/travel.