Updated April 29, 2021.
These FAQs were created to help you decide what type of test is best for you and where to get the test performed.
What is the difference between a “COVID-19 virus test” and a “COVID-19 antibody test”?
- The virus test tells you if you are currently infected with COVID-19.
- The antibody test tells you if you have had the infection in the past and currently have antibodies that may protect you from re-infection. It can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies. Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 might provide protection from getting infected with the virus again. If it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies might provide or how long this protection might last.
What are the types of virus tests?
- “Rapid” (antigen) tests: This test provides results at the testing site, usually within an hour. This test is checking to see if viral antigen (a piece of the virus’s outer coat or surface) is present on the nose or throat specimen. A positive test result from this test is highly accurate. But a negative test result is less accurate, which means this test might miss an infection that the molecular test identifies. So, if you have symptoms but your results from this test are negative, you should talk to your doctor about further testing.
- Molecular tests: Also called the RT-PCR test or LAMP test, this test is highly accurate but might take up to a week to obtain the test result. This test checks for the presence of virus’s genetic material (RNA). Samples may be taken from the nose, throat or saliva.
- Home test: On November 17, 2020, the FDA announced that for the first time, a home molecular COVID-19 test has been granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) and in December approved the test for public use. See below.
How is the virus test sample obtained?
- Samples, also called specimens, can be obtained from the upper sinuses or nasal cavity (“deep nasopharyngeal”), back of the throat (“oropharyngeal”), saliva or sputum (“mucus” or “phlegm”).
- Healthcare providers have concluded that a sample from the upper sinuses or nasal cavity (nasopharyngeal) provides the best specimen for COVID-19 testing and is less likely to return a false result. This procedure may be uncomfortable but is very quick.
- While throat swab testing is more comfortable than the nasal test, it may result in a false negative finding: even though the test is negative you do have COVID-19. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms and you receive negative test results, you need further testing.
- Saliva tests are a new COVID-19 PCR molecular test option, but not yet available in Portsmouth. These tests require you to spit into a sterile container which is sent for testing. The newest saliva test, SalivaDirect, has a high level of accuracy, but can still produce false-negative results. If you have COVID-19 symptoms and you receive negative results, you need further testing.
Should I get a COVID-19 test?
If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, believe you may have been exposed, or are at “high risk,” you should contact your healthcare provider and ask to be tested. Or you can call or go online, without a doctor’s order, to schedule a test at any of the local testing centers (see below). You can also order a home test, follow the collection directions, and send the sample back for testing results.
- COVID-19 symptoms include:
- fever over 100.4°F with or without chills
- cough, shortness of breath or difficulty with breathing
- sore throat
- congestion with or without a runny nose
- fatigue or a sense of low energy
- muscle and body aches
- recent loss of sense of smell or taste
- The following are considered “high risk”:
- those over the age of 60 years
- anyone with chronic kidney disease
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- asthma or any lung disease
- sickle cell disease
- neurologic (brain/spinal cord) conditions
- immune deficiency for any reason (organ transplant, cancer, immune disease)
As of December 2020, the recommendations for testing have been revised in response to increased testing demand and limited testing capacity. If you have been exposed to a person with Covid-19 it is recommended that you schedule a PCR test on/about the 5th day after exposure if you are not experiencing symptoms. This is the timeframe when it is most likely the test will confirm whether or not you are infected. If you develop symptoms, you can either schedule a PCR test or an antigen test (provided you’ve had symptoms for no more than 5 days).
Where can I go near Portsmouth to get a test?
All testing sites require preregistration or an appointment made by phone or online as listed below. All of these testing locations offer Molecular (PCR) testing.
This site uses the drug store’s drive-thru window where you receive instructions from the pharmacist on taking your own sample from your nose using a swab. Test results take 2-7 days and you will receive a phone call if your test is positive.
Call: (833) 263-0131
PCR test: Either a nasal swab and throat swab are collected by a medical person once you arrive at Convenient MD. The swab is then sent to the lab and results come back in 3-7 days.You will receive a phone call if your test is positive for the virus.>Antigen test: Also known as a rapid test, you will need a referral from your health care provider to get the antigen test. This test is only available to those that have been experiencing symptoms for 5 days or less. Results are given in person; the wait time is 15 minutes.
When you arrive for your appointment, a medical aide will take a nasal swab. This site also offers antibody testing.
Call: (603) 294-1231
Call: (207) 351-2000. 343 US-1, York, ME 03909
- Appointment required
- Referral not required
- Testing for all patients
Instructions: Appointments must be made in advance online. Time slots fill up quickly. $25 Payment is required at time of testing (credit/debit cards entered while reserving online) Use the following link to book online: https://www.solvhealth.com/book-online/gZloLA TMA TESTING (PROVIDER ORDER REQUIRED). Must pre-register by calling 207-351-2000 prior to your arrival, to ensure that your provider order is in the system.
How much does the test cost and will my insurance cover the cost?
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures that COVID-19 testing is free to anyone in the U.S., including the uninsured.
- Most health insurance plans cover testing for COVID-19 without a copay, coinsurance, or deductible.
- If you do not have insurance or have a health insurance plan that does not fully cover the cost of testing you may be eligible for the New Hampshire Medicaid Limited COVID-19 Testing Benefit and can apply for that coverage online through NH EASY and click on “COVID-19 Testing.”
What about the in-home test kits?
In-home test kits can be purchased or ordered online by searching for Covid-19 home tests. There are two types of in-home tests: 1) in-home all-in-one tests that allow you to collect and test the sample at home called an in-home diagnostic test, and 2) in-home tests where you collect the sample and send the sample to a laboratory in the mail called an in-home sample collection test.
As of December 2020, over-the-counter home tests were approved for home testing. The Binax and Pixel kits are available for purchase at CVS, Walgreen’s and Walmart. FDA review of these home tests has found them to be reliable, and they do not require a prescription. Home diagnostic tests allow you to collect the specimen and test at home for the presence of the virus – in essence becoming an all-in-one immediate test. At-home instructions explain how to collect a nasal swab and then use the supplied test strip and solution to check for the presence of the viral antigen. The tests are recommended for use on persons aged 2 years or older whether or not the person is showing any signs of COVID-19 infection. If your in-home test results are positive, it is important to follow the NH state guidelines for isolation, contact your PCP to discuss early monoclonal antibody treatment, and continue to monitor your symptoms.
If your results are negative, the virus was not present in the sample you provided. However, it is important to note that the virus may not be detected by the test in early stages of infection or if the sample is not collected/tested as directed. If you test negative and experience Covid-19 like symptoms you should follow up with your health care provider as there is a small chance of a false negative test [meaning you have Covid-19 but the test came back negative).
In Home sample collection tests: The Pixel by LabCorp Test Home Collection Kit has been given emergency use authorization by the FDA. This test allows you to collect a nasal swab specimen at home and send that specimen for testing by LabCorp using the COVID-19 RT-PCR test. Test results are delivered back to you through a Pixel by LabCorp account created during registration. If the test is positive or invalid/indeterminate you additionally will receive a phone call from a healthcare provider.
- The Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit is for use by adults 18 years and older to self-collect nasal swab specimens, including for use by those without symptoms or other reasons to suspect COVID-19 infection. You order the test online and complete a short eligibility survey. The kit is mailed to you via FedEx and once the kit is received follow the test collection instructions exactly as provided to obtain the best specimen for testing.
- The Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit is not a substitute for visits to a healthcare provider. Your tests results should not be used to start, stop, or change any course of treatment unless advised by your healthcare provider.
- The test costs $119.00. When you register for this test you choose to have the lab bill your insurance company, use federal funds to cover the test cost, or charge the fee to your credit card (for those who do not qualify for federal funds).
- Test results are available online in 1-2 days.
In-home diagnostic tests: The FDA has given what's called emergency use authorization (EUA) to five at-home tests. That means the tests haven't gone through the full rigorous FDA approval process, but the agency wanted to get them on the market quickly due to the severity of the pandemic. The tests are:
- Ellume COVID-19 Home Test: This was the first at-home test to be authorized that can be done without a prescription. It uses so-called antigen technology, meaning it looks for fragments of viral proteins. On Feb. 1, the federal government announced a $231.8 million deal to boost manufacturing of the test. The company is working with retailers to get the test on store shelves, a spokeswoman said, and it will also be sold online. It will cost about $30. The test delivers your results wirelessly to a smartphone app in 15 to 20 minutes.
- Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test: This rapid antigen test has been used for months by health care providers, but on March 31, the FDA authorized it to be sold over the counter and used at home, even by those who have no symptoms. The test will be sold in packs of two, and the instructions call for it to be administered twice over three days. Repeat testing helps reduce the chance of inaccurate results. This test is now available at CVS, Walgreen’s and Walmart. Results are delivered in about 15 minutes on a device the size of a credit card.
- Quidel QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test: This is another antigen test that will be sold over the counter. Like the one from Abbott, it will be sold in packs of two, and the instructions call for users to test themselves twice over two or three days, with at least 24 hours between tests. Results are delivered on a paper test strip that changes color in 10 minutes, similar to a home pregnancy test.
- Cue COVID-19 Test for Home and Over the Counter Use: This test is also authorized to be sold over the counter without a prescription, but it uses molecular technology, which can pick up very small amounts of genetic material. Molecular tests are generally more accurate than those that use antigen technology, especially in patients who are asymptomatic. Results are available in about 20 minutes. Cue Health cofounder and chief product officer Clint Sever said the company is working to make the test available at retailers nationwide, but he did not have a time frame. The company has yet to set a price for the test.
- Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit: Like the Cue test, the Lucira one uses molecular technology. It is priced at $50, and you need a prescription to use it. Lucira is selling the test directly to health care providers; a spokesman says your doctor can order it for you. It takes about 30 minutes to deliver results.
If you have reason to believe you have been exposed and your in-home test result is negative, it is important to follow up with a healthcare provider for further evaluation or to get re-tested.
What about the antibody test?
For virus testing locations in New Hampshire: The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services provides this list as a service to the community. The Department does not endorse any particular entity for COVID-19 testing services.
- The antibody test is a blood test to check for the presence of COVID-19 virus antibodies in your blood.
- This test is ordered by your healthcare provider who will explain the results to you once the test is completed.
- This test may or may not be covered by your insurance. If you are not sure you should contact your health insurance company and ask if the COVID-19 antibody test, including the blood collection, is covered by your policy.