COVID-19 Testing

OSF HealthCare provides COVID-19 testing for individuals who are experiencing symptoms or require testing because they've been in close contact to someone with the virus.

Types of Tests

The tests used to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are viral tests. They use specimens from your nose or mouth.

There are two main types of viral tests:

  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests – Considered to be the “gold standard” for COVID-19 tests, they are a type of nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), which are more likely to detect the virus than antigen tests. It may take up to three days to receive results.
  • Antigen tests – These are rapid tests that usually produce results in 15-30 minutes. Positive results are very accurate and reliable. In general, antigen tests are less likely to detect the virus than PCR tests, especially when symptoms are not present. Therefore, a single negative antigen test cannot rule out infection. At-home tests are antigen tests.

If you need a COVID-19 test, schedule a time with your primary care provider through OSF MyChart, walk in to an OSF PromptCare or OSF OnCall Urgent Care, or reach out to your local pharmacy for test options.

When to Get Tested

If you don’t have symptoms but have been exposed to COVID-19, wait at least five days after your exposure before taking a test.

Other things to know:

  • If you have symptoms, test immediately.
  • If you’re only going to take a single test, a PCR test will provide a more reliable negative test result.
  • If you use an antigen test, a positive result is reliable, but a negative test is not always accurate.
  • If your antigen test is negative, take another antigen test after 48 hours or take a PCR test as soon as you can. If your second antigen test is also negative, wait another 48 hours and test a third time.

Testing can be helpful even when you don’t have symptoms or a recent exposure to COVID-19, such as before an event or visiting someone who may be at higher risk for severe illness. Test at least one to two days before your event.

Test Results

Results of a COVID-19 test are usually available within three days, unless you qualify for a rapid test within a clinic, in which case results may be available sooner.

There are three possible results of a COVID test:

  • If you test positive for COVID-19, your provider will give you advice about what to do next.
  • If you test negative for COVID-19, you will receive guidance from your provider and should continue to monitor yourself for symptoms.
  • A very small number of tests may be inconclusive. If your result cannot be determined, your provider may recommend you get tested again.
View More In This Section