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
  • 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.

Some private clinics or pharmacies may request identification or insurance information during the test scheduling process. Call ahead to ask if they offer COVID-19 testing to patients without insurance. 

Patients are not required to provide identification, proof of citizenship, or insurance information to get tested at a State-run site. You will be asked to provide insurance information during the scheduling process, but this information is not required. The cost of testing will either be covered by your insurance provider or the State. 

Some State-run test sites offer rapid antigen testing only. These locations are noted in the test scheduling portal at portal.ri.gov.

When you arrive at all other State-run test sites, a staff member will ask if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you will get swabbed twice to collect two specimens. The first swab will be a rapid antigen test. The second swab will be sent to a lab if needed.

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and your rapid antigen test result is positive, your confirmatory PCR test may not be sent to the lab. You have COVID-19 and should isolate at home.  
  • If you have symptoms and your rapid antigen test result is negative, your PCR test will be sent to the lab to confirm your rapid results. You should isolate at home while you wait for your PCR test results.

If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, you will be offered PCR testing.* PCR tests are sent to a lab for processing.

*To accommodate the current demand for COVID-19 testing, some State-run test sites only offer rapid antigen testing. This list has more information about each site.

The following State-run test sites offer rapid testing instead of PCR testing to general-public asymptomatic patients:

  • Barrington Shopping Center: 184 County Rd. Barrington, RI 02806
  • Central Falls Test Site: 1114 Broad St. Central Falls, RI 02863
  • Cranston Parkade: 322 Garfield Ave. Cranston, RI 02920
  • Rhode Island Convention Center: 1 Sabin St. Providence, RI 02903 
  • Smithfield VFW: 47 Farnum Pike Smithfield, RI 02917
  • Warwick Shopping Plaza: 545 Greenwich Ave. Warwick, RI 02886

If you’re not required to get a PCR test for returning to school or work, RIDOH is strongly recommending that you get a rapid test instead of a PCR test. This will help us improve our turnaround times as we work to expand our lab capacity.

If you do not have symptoms and would like to get a rapid antigen test, log in to portal.ri.gov and schedule a general-public appointment at any of the above test sites.

Learn more about the different types of COVID-19 tests and swabs. 

If you recently tested positive for COVID-19, RIDOH does not recommend getting tested again for the following 90 days. Someone who has COVID-19 can continue to get a positive test result for up to 90 days.

  • If you need to provide proof of a current or previous infection to your school or employer, you can submit a letter request to RIDOH using this web form.
  • If you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days and new symptoms develop, call your healthcare provider, and ask if you should get tested again.

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.

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.

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.

Free asymptomatic COVID-19 screening is available to all travelers arriving at TF Green Airport. Testing is offered in the first-floor baggage claim area every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You do not need an appointment.  

The COVID-19 testing clinic at TF Green Airport also offers testing options for departing international travelers. The clinic, operated by Doctors Testing Center, can provide test results and documentation to meet the requirements of most airlines and international travel destinations. Expedited travel tests are available for a fee. For more information or to schedule your test, visit doctorstestcenters.com/flyri or call 312-858-7638. 

For more information about testing options in Rhode Island, visit covid.ri.gov/testing.

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.

If you are traveling outside of Rhode Island, check with the health department in the state or country you are traveling to for testing requirements.

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