These tests check for the virus that causes COVID-19. The tests look for pieces of SARS-CoV-2 viral protein. It is sometimes called a “point-of-care” (POC) test because no laboratory is needed to conduct the test, and results are available in less than half an hour. The test is different from a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test which looks for SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids and takes several hours or days to get results. The quick turnaround time for the COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test means that people who test positive can be isolated quickly before they risk infecting other people. The COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests used are provided by the Pima County Health Department and have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, for the diagnosis of COVID-19 in individuals exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. These tests are sometimes used on people who have no symptoms. These tests sometimes produce incorrect negative results (called “false negatives”) in people who actually have COVID-19. For this reason, people who test negative with COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests and either have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should get a PCR test within 48 hours. The test also sometimes, although less often, produces incorrect positive results (called “false positives”). Medical facilities or congregate care facilities serving individuals with risk factors for COVID-19 may want to do a follow-up PCR test to confirm disease diagnosis, but for non-medical or congregate care testing locations there is no need to get a PCR test after a positive COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test result. The most commonly provided COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test provided for school use by the Pima County Health Department is the Abbott BinaxNOW Antigen Card tests, however other brands of COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test kits may be used depending on the availability of supplies from the Pima County Health Department. You can get a Fact Sheet about the Abbott BinaxNOW Antigen Card tests at https://www.fda.gov/media/141569/download.
The Rapid COVID19 Antigen test is provided to the school district at no cost from the health department.
After registering for the test, which includes collecting personal information and answering a few health questions, a trained staff person will insert a small swab, like a Q-Tip, about 2 centimeters (less than one inch) into the front of one of your nostrils. The swab will be swirled around several times, removed, and then repeated on the other nostril. The staff person will then follow the instructions to run the test. Some individuals may be nervous about testing, but this test is not painful and should not be uncomfortable. After testing, you will be directed to a designated waiting area until test results are available.
All staff conducting testing will follow US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 testing and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) for proper infection control (for example a gown, mask, eye protection, and gloves). Staff doing testing will follow the Instructions for Use provided by the test manufacturer. Physical distancing and face coverings are required in the testing area, except for the short time needed for specimen collection.
Specimens are used for no other purpose than COVID-19 testing. Each specimen is considered biohazardous and is disposed of following infectious waste disposal regulations.
Results are available approximately 15 minutes after getting swabbed. The entire testing process should take no more than 20 minutes from start to finish. If there is an error in the test, the test will be repeated.
You will be given a form containing your test results and what you should do next depending on your result.
Carefully read the information you get with your test results which will tell you what you should do next. These instructions are summarized below for each type of test result.
- POSITIVE: A positive test result means the test DID find the virus that causes COVID-19 in the swab from your nose. You will be required to quarantine and should talk to your doctor about your test result.
- NEGATIVE: A negative test result means the test DID NOT find the virus that causes COVID-19 in the swab from your nose. However, you could still be infected. The infection may be just starting and the amount of virus may be too little to detect by the Rapid COVID19 Antigen test. So:
- If you have symptoms OR have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you need to quarantine and get a PCR test as soon as possible.
- If you do not have symptoms AND have not been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you need to take everyday precautions like washing your hands, physical distancing, and wearing a mask.
- INVALID: An invalid test result means there was an error in your test. You should get a PCR test as soon as possible. If you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you need to quarantine.
If you need to get a PCR test, free testing locations can be found at www.pima.gov/covid19testing or by calling the Pima County Health Department at 520-724-7770. Information about how long to quarantine can be found at www.pima.gov/covid19sick or by calling the Arizona State COVID-19 Hotline at 844-542-8201.
A qualified person will use a computer to securely send your personal information and test result to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Pima County Health Department, and their contracted service organizations. This information is shared only for public health purposes, such as case investigation, contact tracing, communicable disease analysis, and other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These organizations follow strict privacy and confidentiality protocols and all laws to protect your privacy. Your information will be kept confidential.
Yes. Information related to testing is confidential and protected under local, state, and federal laws. The Arizona Department of Health Services and Pima County Health Department securely store your information and only designated staff have access to your test results and personal information.
You should talk to your child about testing. We encourage you to tell them that doctors, nurses, and other health professionals need to make sure they are healthy, so they are going to do a test for the virus by rubbing a small cotton swab inside the front part of their nose. Remind your child that it’s okay to get this test and that it’s quick, safe, and gentle.
Please contact your child’s school health assistant for additional information.
There are lots of places to go for accurate information about COVID-19.
- The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- The Arizona COVID-19 Hotline – translation available for those who do not speak English
- 844-542-8201 (open every day, all day: 24 hours per day, 7 days per week)
- The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS)
- The Pima County Health Department (PCHD) – Spanish speaking staff available
- 520-724-7770 (open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm)