testing nasal

Things to know about COVID-19 testing:

 Testing is free to all eligible New Yorkers as ordered by a health care provider or by calling the NYS COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065. 

All New Yorkers can now get tested for COVID-19. It's free, confidential and available at a location near you: nyc.gov/covidtest

The COVID-19 test is FREE, confidential and safe. All New Yorkers can get a FREE COVID-19 diagnostic test, whether or not they have symptoms or are at increased risk. New Yorkers can also get free COVID-19 antibody tests to know if they have been exposed.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a severe respiratory syndrome and infectious disease. Its symptoms include but are not limited to fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell. However, not all people have symptoms when they have COVID-19.

What does the COVID-19 test consist of?

The COVID-19 diagnostic test is safe, free, and easy. A nasal swab, oral swab or saliva sample may be used.

testing nasal swab 2

The person conducting the test will insert a long stick with a very soft brush on the end  up your nose and twirl it around for a few seconds. The soft bristles will collect a sample of secretions there for analysis. The swab has to go pretty far back, because cells and fluids must be collected from along the entire passageway that connects the base of the nose to the back of the throat to get a really good specimen.

Who can get tested?

All New Yorkers can and should get tested.

How often should I get tested?

If your first COVID test is negative, you should get tested again if you

  • are concerned about possible exposure
  • have spent time in a large crowd
  • have had exposure to someone with confirmed or possible COVID-19
  • have symptoms
  • work in a congregate setting like a nursing home or shelter are planning to visit someone at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness

How long do results take?

That's a hard question right now. Most results are returned in about 3-10 days. Depending on where you live and whether there's a surge in the number of tests administered can determine how long it'll take to get test results. 

At the onset of the pandemic, public health officials stressed that the war against the coronavirus could only be won by ramping up the supply of testing. In New York, city and state four months into the crisis, New York, along with Rhode Island, routinely perform the most tests per capita of any state in the country. The state has tested roughly 60,000 people daily in recent weeks. New York City alone has tested more than 35,000 individuals in a single day, relying on both its own publicly-run testing facilities as well as private urgent care clinics.

Labs are struggle to keep up as the number of COVID-19 cases spike and the delays undermine the efforts to track, isolate, and prevent the spread of the virus. 

In our area the majority of COVID-19 tests are done by private labs. Patients have to wait  more than week for results, because federal officials are asking for those same labs to prioritize high-risk states.  The ramifications of testing delays are acute, especially as the city works to improve its test and trace initiative.

"It undermines the entire purpose of testing," said Mark Levine, the City Council member who chairs the health committee and recently tweeted about the problem. "You want people to isolate if they are contagious. This means people are going to be out for seven days spreading the virus potentially before they need to quarantine."  Levine blamed the delays on a national shortage of lab resources and the federal government's handling of its pandemic response.

Represent NYC: Council Member Mark Levine Explains Why COVID19 Tests Results Are Delayed


What do these COVID-19 tests detect?

PCR (Nasal Swab): This test will detect if you are actively infected with the COVID-19 virus.  

Serum Antibody IgG (Blood Test): This test will detect if you have had prior exposure to COVID-19 and have built an antibody for the virus. For most viral illnesses, a positive antibody means prior exposure to a virus and some degree of immunity to future infection. As COVID-19 is a novel (new) infection, it is unclear if a positive antibody definitively offers immunity. Most experts agree it likely does, however the recommendation is to still practice universal precautions. 

 Do I need insurance to get a diagnostic test? 

You do not need health insurance to get a COVID-19 or antibody test at an NYC Health + Hospitals location or at many other testing sites across the city. If you have insurance, please bring your insurance card so that the insurance plan can be billed. You will not need to pay any copay or co-insurance.

CityMD will provide free coronavirus tests to uninsured New Yorkers as part of a partnership with the city.

What about my privacy?

Your test results are confidential.

You will not be asked about immigration status.  

Are there mobile units?

For the week of July 20-24, mobile units will be available:

  • Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM.
  • Note: Availability is subject to change due to inclement weather.

Polo Grounds
2931 Frederick Douglass Boulevard
New York, NY 10039

Lincoln Community Center
2110 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10037

Where else can I get tested?

There are hundreds of convenient testing sites across the city, as well as mobile testing units visiting different locations throughout the five boroughs.

 NYC Health + Hospitals offers free testing at hospitals, health centers, and new pop-up locations across the five boroughs. Just walk-in – no appointment needed!

Find a Testing Location Near You

CityMD is currently offering two forms of COVID-19 testing at all locations - the PCR (Nasal Swab) test and the Serum Antibody IgG (Blood Test). The urgent care company is offering testing at each of its 123 walk-in sites in the area.

Do I need to make an appointment to receive a COVID-19 PCR or Antibody test?

No, we do not accept appointments. COVID-19 testing is walk-in only at all CityMD locations or the NYC Heath + Hospitals locations.