Questions about your results? Call the COVID-19 test results hotline: 866-419-6988
Do you have COVID-19 symptoms? Have you been in close contact with someone with COVID-19? If your answer is “yes” to either of these questions, it’s time to get tested, even if you are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. There are many ways to get tested for COVID-19 in Wisconsin. First contact your doctor to ask if your primary health care clinic provides testing. If testing is not available, find a free community testing site near you. Check with the location for hours and when appointments are available.
Getting tested for COVID-19
Who should test
When to get tested
- Get tested after close contact with someone with COVID-19. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should get tested 5 days after exposure to someone with COVID-19.
- Get tested immediately if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
- You may need to be tested before or after you travel, even if you are up to date with current vaccine recommendations.
- Consider using a self-test before going to a public event or getting together with friends and family.
How to get tested for COVID-19
There are many ways to get tested for COVID-19 in Wisconsin:
- Contact your doctor or primary health care provider.
- Find a local community testing site. Testing at these sites is free. Some locations may require an appointment to receive a test.
- You can order free tests, regardless of symptoms or exposure, online from the federal government at COVIDTests.gov.
- Self-tests are available for purchase over-the counter at pharmacies and online. See a list of products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- Contact your local or tribal health department for help finding a test.
- Check with your local pharmacy; your child's school or child care provider; or your work.
You can protect yourself from potential fraudulent testing providers by following these guidelines:
- Do not pay with cash. Most insurance will cover the cost of COVID-19 testing. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) also cover COVID-19 testing. Ask the provider if they accept health insurance.
- Do not provide your personal information. Providers that ask for your Social Security number, passport, driver’s license, or other personal information may be involved in identity theft scams. However, providers may ask for your ID to verify your information if they are intending to bill insurance.
- Ask when and how you will get your results. Testing providers should tell you when you will receive results, or at least provide a range, such as 2-3 days. They should also explain how you will receive results, such as by email, mail, or phone.
- Ask about certification. The federal government assigns a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) number to approved COVID-19 testing facilities that perform rapid onsite testing. You can learn in advance whether a testing lab has a CLIA number by typing in the lab name. The lab name will pop up if they’ve been assigned a CLIA number.
- Confirm that results will be reported. Find out if the testing provider reports COVID-19 test results to state and federal agencies, which they are required to do.
- Buy FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests. Only purchase testing kits from reputable companies and be on the lookout for copycat company names with suspicious websites or spelling errors.
What to expect
Some types of tests for COVID-19 require inserting a long swab (like a long Q-tip) into the nose and gently rotating it several times. The swabbing is then repeated in the other nostril. The test can be a little uncomfortable but is usually painless. The swab is then sent to a lab for testing. Other types of tests use saliva or throat swabs.
While you wait for your COVID-19 test results, stay home and monitor your symptoms, to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19.
Getting your test results
If you were tested for COVID-19 at a community testing site, you may be notified of your test results by phone or email. Some community testing sites have upgraded to a web-based system, COVID Connect 2. Patients who test at participating locations will need to log onto their account in order to view their results.
Frequently asked questions
Can I still get a test if I don't have insurance?
Yes. COVID-19 tests are available for anyone who needs a test in a variety of settings across the state.
- There are community testing sites throughout Wisconsin run by pharmacies, health care providers, community testing partners and local public and tribal health departments. Community testing sites offer free testing. Contact the community testing site for information about registration, appointments and walk-in testing.
- At-home rapid antigen tests are available for purchase through pharmacies and online.
- Health care providers across Wisconsin offer COVID-19 testing, including free or low cost health clinics. Call to make an appointment.
For more information on resources available to uninsured Wisconsin residents, visit our ForwardHealth Program Resources webpage.
Will I be charged by my health care provider?
Before you are tested, ask if there is a charge for the test, appointment, or any other services associated with your visit. In most cases, COVID-19 testing is free if you have any symptom(s) or exposure to the virus.
Will my health insurance charge me for COVID-19 testing and/or care?
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) generally requires public and private insurance to cover the costs of COVID-19 testing and care.
If you are seeking testing from an out-of-network healthcare provider, please contact your health insurance provider to find out their out-of-network process. Health insurance plans must cover COVID-19 tests conducted by out-of-network providers. Individuals can be charged up-front fees for COVID-19 testing that is reimbursable. Contact your health insurer for assistance.
See answers to frequently asked questions on FFRCA and the CARES act. If you receive a bill for COVID-19 testing and/or treatment, please contact the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to file a complaint.
What if I have concerns about my testing experience?
You can direct complaints about a COVID-19 testing experience to DHS’ Office of Inspector General at 877-865-3432 or online. Examples of complaints could include: incorrect results, missing results, fake results, testing quality, testing site cleanliness, insurance billing, inappropriate fees for tests, testing fraud such as fake test kits, and other related topics.
Self-tests and at-home collection kits
COVID-19 self-tests and at-home collection kits allow you to collect your own specimen for testing at home. Learn more about self-testing and at-home collection kits below.
A COVID-19 self-test (also called an at-home test or over-the-counter test) is a type of COVID-19 test that you can take at home. Self-tests are sometimes supervised by a telehealth care provider over a video call. Self-tests are easy to use and produce rapid results at home. Learn more about when and how to use self-tests and what your results mean.
At-home collection kits
At-home collection kits are a type of COVID-19 test where you collect your own sample at home. Sample collection is sometimes supervised by a health care professional, depending on the type of collection kit you use. You then send your sample to a lab for processing and get your test results in 1 to 3 days.
- Test results from an at-home collection kit can only be used to inform official public health decisions, such as clearance for travel; or exemption or release from quarantine, if the sample collection is supervised by a health care provider. (Note: Not all at-home collection kits require a health care provider to supervise the sample collection.)
Testing capacity in Wisconsin
See how testing capacity has grown in Wisconsin over the course of the pandemic by expanding the tabs below.
When COVID-19 first arrived in Wisconsin
COVID-19 first arrived in Wisconsin in early spring of 2020, and there were very few tools to fight it. Testing was scarce and saved for people who were gravely ill or more likely to die from COVID-19. In the beginning, testing was first available in hospitals, clinics and other health care settings, as well as nursing homes. Most people were told to stay home and call their health care provider if their illness worsened. People who were close to someone with COVID-19 could not get tested. Testing supplies were so limited and demand was so high that it could take two weeks or longer to get your results.
As COVID-19 cases surged
Each week, our testing capacity grew. More laboratories joined the effort, building on the base established by the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, who was there at the very start. This made it a little easier to get a COVID-19 test, but wait times for results were still long. In the summer of 2020, if you needed a test, you could go to a drive-through or community testing site without an appointment, but results often still took days.
By the fall of 2020, COVID-19 cases surged in Wisconsin and nationwide. We knew that testing was a key tool in stopping the spread of the virus. Wisconsin’s testing capacity continued to grow – and fast. We teamed up with partners to offer services like COVID Connect, the test registration website, and free at-home test collection. Our partners at the Wisconsin National Guard, the University of Wisconsin system, and more than 75 new testing sites with community partners. The Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene also started sequencing test specimens for emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2 that are more contagious than earlier strains of the virus.
COVID-19 testing today
You may get tested by your doctor, at your workplace, at school, at your local pharmacy, or at a community testing site. You can even buy a COVID-19 test over the counter at your local pharmacy! Today, test results arrive faster than ever before—some as quickly as 7 minutes!
Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the need to get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed, even if you are fully vaccinated. Testing is still one of the best ways to stop the spread and keep your family and community safe.
Resources on COVID-19 testing
See resources and educational materials on COVID-19 testing translated into multiple languages.
Testing support programs for facilities
COVID-19 testing support programs are available in specific settings and facilities in Wisconsin. Testing is free, voluntary, and intended to complement COVID-19 prevention efforts. For more information on specific testing support programs, see the resources listed below:
K-12 schools and children's programs
Shelters with shared living environments
All shelters with shared living environments are eligible to receive COVID-19 testing support.
County jails are eligible for COVID-19 testing support based on the availability of testing supplies.
Do you have COVID-19?
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should isolate to prevent the spread of COVID-19.