Testing

Testing

rack of test tubes labeled COVID-19

Testing is an important tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Anyone can get tested for COVID-19, including people who work in Vermont, visitors to Vermont and international travelers. Testing is free to all, and many sites now let you take your own sample using a short swab in your nose. You can either make an appointment or walk in. 

find TESTING locations

See the Health Department's recommendations for testing

The Health Department recommends testing as soon as possible when:

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated or previously had COVID-19. (You should also call your health care provider.)
  • You are referred by your health care provider.
  • You are unvaccinated and a person in your workplace or household, or a person you attended an event with tests positive for COVID-19.

What to Expect

The Vermont Department of Health has partnered with CIC Health to offer COVID-19 testing at many sites in Vermont. These sites allow Vermonters to take their own samples using a short swab in your nose. Watch this video to learn how easy it is to do!

Frequently asked questions about Health Department testing

Who can get tested?
Anyone who is 12 months and older can get tested at a Health Department testing site. This includes people who work in Vermont, visitors to Vermont and international travelers. Infants under 12 months can get tested at their health care provider's office. Anyone under 18 should be accompanied by a parent or guardian or bring a signed parental consent form.

What kind of test is it?
The Health Department uses and recommends PCR tests. A PCR test will tell you if you have a current infection. It is not a serology/antibody test, which means it will not tell you if you were infected in the past. 

If I am vaccinated, will I test positive for COVID-19?
None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available will cause you to test positive on a PCR or antigen test. The vaccines could cause you to test positive on some antibody tests. This is because your body develops an immune response when you get vaccinated.

Do I need to make an appointment?
You can make an appointment or just walk in. Find a testing location.

Do I need a referral from my doctor?
No. You do not need a referral from a doctor to be tested at a Health Department testing site.

Do I need insurance?
No. You may be asked to provide health insurance information when you make an appointment or when you go to the site, but you do not have to have health insurance in order to get tested.

Is the test free?
Yes. It is free to get tested at a Health Department testing site.

What is the test like? How is a sample collected?
Health Department testing sites use nasal swabs. This is a self-administered test, which means that you use a short, dry swab to collect a sample from the front of your nose.

Do I get out of my car for the testing? 
Some sites allow you to drive through, but most will require you to get out of your car to enter the space where the specimen will be collected. You will get instructions to follow when you arrive at the site. You may have to wait outside, so dress for the weather.

Do I need to identification with me?
We don’t require identification. We will ask you to verify your contact information.

Will I be screened for symptoms?
Yes. You will be asked if you have any current symptoms of COVID-19 at the testing site.You will still be able to get tested.

Can I get transportation to the test site?
Yes. Schedule your appointment, and then call 833-387-7200 at least two days before the appointment. 

Can I get an ASL interpreter to assist me at the testing site?
Yes. An ASL interpreter can be arranged at Health Department testing sites. Usually, the interpreter will work with you remotely, and you'll use a computer screen available at the test site. To request an interpreter, ask one of the public health workers at the test site.

Can I get an interpreter for a foreign language to assist me at the testing site?
Yes. An interpreter can be arranged at Health Department testing sites. Usually, the interpreter will work with you remotely by phone. To request an interpreter, ask one of the public health workers at the test site. There are some testing sites where foreign language interpreters are available onsite.

When and how will I get my results?
Find out about getting your test results.

What should I do while I wait for my results?
Read about what to do while you’re waiting for your test results.

Can I be tested at a Health Department testing site more than once?
Yes. You may come to a Health Department testing site to get tested more than once if you have reason to be concerned about infection.

How can I change or cancel my appointment?
The confirmation email that was sent to you has information about how to cancel or change your appointment. You can also call 802-863-7240 (select option 9, then select option 3) if you need help.

Getting your test results

The Health Department only uses PCR tests. Test results are typically available within 3 business days. Business days are Monday through Friday. Holidays are not business days. If you were tested on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, your results may not be posted until the following week. How you receive results depends on where you were tested.

If you were tested at a Health Department testing site and:

  • If you requested an electronic result, you can expect an email within 3 business days, when your result is ready. You can then log in to your COVID-19 testing account to get the result. You will not receive a letter.
  • If you requested a letter, you can expect to receive it within 7 business days. If you also provided an email address, you can expect an email within 3 business days, when your result is ready. You can then log in to your COVID-19 testing account to get the result.
  • If you do not have a COVID-19 testing account (you got tested as a walk-in) a patient ID was created for you and sent to the email you provided.  You will need to use the link in the email to confirm your patient ID. Once you confirm the patient ID, you can log in to your COVID-19 testing account and view your test results once they are available, which will be within 3 business days.

We cannot guarantee that you will receive your results in less than 3 business days. We also cannot accommodate special requests for receiving test results or rushed results.

If you receive a test result that is “inconclusive” or “indeterminate,” the Health Department encourages you to get retested. You are also encouraged to stay home away from others while you’re waiting for your result. "Pending" means your test results are not yet ready.

If you are having problems accessing your test results, call 802-863-7240, select option 9, then select option 3.

If you got tested anywhere else, the Health Department cannot provide your results. Please contact your health care provider, if they ordered the test or the facility that conducted the test.

Find out what to do while you’re waiting for your test results.

If You have a Positive Result

If you test positive for COVID-19, our contact tracing team will talk to you about what you should do and ask questions about people you were in contact with. It is possible that the Health Department may contact you before your health care provider does.

None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available will cause you to test positive on a PCR or antigen test. The vaccines could cause you to test positive on some antibody tests. This is because your body develops an immune response when you get vaccinated.

Learn more about what to do if you test positive for COVID-19.

Types of tests

PCR Test

A PCR test is the most common type of COVID-19 test used today. Sometimes it is called an RT-PCR test. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction. The test identifies people who are currently infected with the COVID-19 virus. A negative PCR test can be used to shorten a 14-day quarantine

PCR tests are generally the most reliable tests. Samples are analyzed at a lab, which usually takes up to a few days. A PCR test is used at testing sites offered by the Health Department.

None of the vaccines currently available will cause you to test positive on a PCR test.

Data on COVID-19 activity reported on healthvermont.gov includes only PCR tests.

Antigen Test

An antigen test for COVID-19 identifies people who are currently infected with the COVID-19 virus. However, a negative antigen test cannot be used to shorten a 14-day quarantine. None of the vaccines currently available will cause you to test positive on an antigen test.

Antigen tests provide results much more quickly than PCR tests. They are sometimes referred to as a rapid or fast test. Antigen tests are usually less sensitive than PCR tests, so they might miss some cases. Antigen tests could be more useful in certain circumstances:

  • For people who have symptoms of COVID-19. So far, studies on antigen tests have only been done on people with symptoms, and we do not have evidence about the accuracy of the antigen test on people without symptoms.
     
  • Health care providers may use antigen testing when PCR testing is not available or when results are needed quickly. This may be when people who are having symptoms get tested at their doctor’s office or when patients are being admitted to hospitals that don’t have a lot of PCR tests available.
     
  • Antigen tests may be used to screen people to identify those who need a more definitive test. Antigen tests are particularly helpful when used to test people in the early stages of infection (within the first 5 to 7 days of having COVID-19 symptoms) when the viral load is generally the highest. For example, long-term care facilities could screen residents and staff who are not having symptoms, but only if the tests were done at least weekly.
  • For surveillance purposes, to see what COVID-19 activity might be occurring in a community.

When used appropriately to test people with COVID-19 symptoms, antigen tests have a higher chance of missing an active infection than a PCR test. This means that if you have symptoms, you may receive a negative result but still be infected with COVID-19. A negative test generally requires confirmation with a PCR test.

Serology/Antibody Test

Serologic, or antibody, tests identify people who have previously been infected with the COVID-19 virus and do not show whether a person is currently infected.

If someone was infected with COVID-19, there will be antibodies in their blood whether the person ever felt sick or not. The testing measures the body’s immune response to the virus. It does not detect the virus itself. The COVID-19 vaccines could cause you to test positive on some antibody tests. This is because your body develops an immune response when you get vaccinated.

With any test, there is always a risk of incorrect test results – false-positive and false-negative results. We need a good and accurate test we can rely on. The Vermont Department of Health convened a working group of experts to research antibody tests. Their findings conclude that at this time, the serologic (antibody) tests that are currently available would not produce results that are accurate or reliable enough for Vermont. The working group will continue to meet regularly and will be watching closely for changes and improvements in serologic testing. Recommendations may change based on new data.

Though certain providers may offer antibody testing in Vermont, the working group cautions against using serologic testing to make decisions about individuals. For example, the test should not be used to establish “proof of immunity.” However, this type of test could help us better understand the population-level rate of infection from COVID-19 in Vermont.

The CDC is working with commercial laboratories to estimate the percentage of people (link is external) who were infected with the COVID-19 virus. The strategy involves working with state, local, territorial, academic and commercial partners to better understand COVID-19 in the United States using serology testing for surveillance.

Learn more from the Food and Drug Administration about COVID-19 tests

In This Section


Learn about when to get tested, and where to go for testing.