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
  • Test results
  • RIDOH’s Confirmatory testing protocol
  • In-school testing
  • Testing information for travelers

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General Information About COVID-19 Testing

Whether or not you’re vaccinated, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate at home, call your healthcare provider, and get a COVID-19 test.

If you're not yet fully vaccinated, get tested every week. You should also get tested if:

  • You’ve been identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive.
  • You’ve taken part in activities that put you at higher risk for COVID-19 because you cannot physically distance as needed to avoid exposure, such as travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in crowded or poorly-ventilated indoor settings.

You're fully vaccinated if you’ve gotten all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO) and more than 14 days have passed since the final dose. Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

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

Free COVID-19 testing for Rhode Islanders ages 3 and older is available at Walgreens Pharmacies across the State.

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 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 usually ready in about one to two days. Since most states with travel restrictions require proof of a negative result from a PCR test, this type of test is specifically recommended for anyone who must travel.
  • BinaxNOW 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.

COVID-19 Test Results

You can access your test results at portal.ri.gov/results. To access this portal, you must enter your personal information and the date you were tested. The information you enter must match the information used to schedule your test. You will get an error message if you try to access this portal before your results are ready. This step-by-step guide has tips on how to use the result portal.

If you were tested at a medical office, retail pharmacy, your workplace, or in school, you may need to contact the location where you were tested for a copy of your result.

Rapid test results are usually available in the test result portal on the same day that you were tested. PCR tests are sent to a lab for processing. PCR test results are usually ready in one to two days.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home and isolate to avoid spreading your symptoms to others in your household. If you do not have symptoms but think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are recently returning from travel to a state with a COVID-19 positivity rate greater than 5%, quarantine while you wait for your results. Learn more about quarantine and isolation.

Rhode Islanders who need to provide verification of their quarantine status, isolation status, or test results may request a letter by submitting this online form. Letters will be sent by email and are usually ready in 72 hours. 

If you need help getting your test results, call 401-222-8022 or email [email protected].

  • Stay home (isolate) for at least 10 days. Someone with COVID-19 needs to isolate even if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19. If you have symptoms, stay home for at least 10 days since you started having symptoms. If you do not have symptoms, stay home for at least 10 days from the day you were tested.
  • Answer the phone when RIDOH calls you. Your name and contact information will be shared with public health staff at RIDOH to help with case investigation. Someone from RIDOH will call you and ask you for a list of people you have had close contact with during your infectious period.
  • Get support. You may be eligible for support to help you isolate. Call 2-1-1 and choose option 6 or visit covid.ri.gov/whattodo for more information.
  • Inform your close contacts. If you spent more than 15 minutes with them in a 24-hour period, they should quarantine for 10 days from the last time they were with you. They should go to portal.ri.gov to get tested on day five or later of their quarantine and should monitor for symptoms. Quarantine can be shortened to 7 days if they have a negative result from a test taken at least 5 days after they were exposed.  Regardless of length of quarantine, they must continue to monitor symptoms for 14 days from the last date of exposure. Residents of long-term care facilities must quarantine for 14 days.
  • Get treated immediately. There is an effective treatment for COVID-19, but supply is limited and reserved for high-risk patients. You may be eligible to receive this treatment if you:
    • Are 65 or older or have chronic health conditions and
    • Have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, fever, etc.) and
    • Tested positive for COVID-19.

If you have a regular doctor, contact them for a referral for treatment as soon as possible. If you don't have a regular doctor, there are other ways to get an online referral. Learn more about COVID-19 treatment and online referral options.

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 K-12 school, you can go to any State-run test site to get a PCR test. 

  • Follow-up PCR test form for K-12: It is recommended that you fill out this form before going to the test site to get your confirmatory PCR test. Hand the completed form to test site staff when you arrive. 

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.

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

  • Students can have COVID-19 without any symptoms but can still spread the infection to other students.
  • Testing in 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 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, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) recommends all travelers follow quarantine and testing guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

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

 

Rhode Islanders planning to travel out of state should check if there are any quarantine or testing requirements in place at their destination. Some states require that visitors provide proof of a negative test result taken within 72 hours prior to their arrival.

If you plan to travel, check with the health department in the state or country you are traveling to for quarantine and testing guidance.

  • Rhode Islanders planning to travel to a location that requires a COVID-19 test to avoid extended quarantine can schedule a test at a local pharmacy or State-run test site.
  • Since some states 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. For guidance on how to integrate COVID-19 testing into your itinerary, review this document.

Rhode Island residents returning from out-of-state travel are no longer required to quarantine or get tested. 

To lower the chances of catching and spreading COVID-19, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) recommends all travelers follow quarantine and testing guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Learn more at covid.ri.gov/travel.

If you return to Rhode Island and begin to experience symptoms of COVID-19, get tested right away, isolate at home, and call your primary care provider. Rhode Islanders may schedule a free COVID-19 test on portal.ri.gov or by calling 401-222-8022. 

If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days and completed your isolation period, you are not required to quarantine unless you begin to have or still have symptoms.  If you have symptoms, isolate at home, call your healthcare provider, and get a COVID-19 test. Learn more at covid.ri.gov/testing.

RIDOH recommends that you carry proof of your positive COVID-19 test result when you travel. The 90-day period starts on the day of symptom onset or the day of your positive test if you were asymptomatic (Day 0).