How to Get Tested for Coronavirus in Boston

You're going to need to call your doctor.


Medical workers speak to a driver at a drive-through coronavirus test facility in San Antonio, Texas. AP Photo/Eric Gay

The number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts is climbing daily, and if you’re experiencing the disease’s signature symptoms—fever, cough, and shortness of breath—you might be wondering if it’s time to get tested. The good news is that the test, a simple nasal swab, is quick and easy. The less-good news is that Massachusetts isn’t yet equipped for you to just walk into a clinic and request to be tested. Rather, if you think you need to get tested, here are the steps you should follow, per the latest from the CDC.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 symptoms?

Stay home.
Most people who are mildly ill with COVID-19 can recover safely at home, and it’s critical that you stay home to avoid the spread of the disease. Do not take any public transportation or ride shares, and do not visit public areas.

In addition to staying away from the outside world, you should also make an effort to stay away from the others in your home. Stay in a specific “sick room,” and try to use a separate bathroom if available. Do not share dishes, glasses, eating utensils, towels or bedding with others in your home. If you must be around other people, wear a face mask if possible.

Call your doctor to get a phone screening.
Call your healthcare provider for medical advice. Do not walk into their office without that phone call! This allows your provider to prepare for your arrival and protect themselves and other patients.

At a press conference yesterday, Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez emphasized the importance of contacting your physician first. “It’s the best way to get a test,” he said.

There is, of course, an exception to the rule—if you’re experiencing severe symptoms, like difficulty breathing, persistent pain in the chest, confusion, or bluish lips or face, call 911 immediately.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, call the telemedicine line from your insurance provider.
Many insurance companies have telemedicine services available for members (your card may have this info, but if it doesn’t, your insurer’s website will). If you don’t have access to a telemedicine line, the CDC recommends calling a hospital emergency department.

What if my doctor says I don’t need a test?

Talk to your physician about how you should proceed. Likely, you will be instructed to stay home and isolate until your symptoms are gone.

What happens if my doctor says I need a test?

You will likely be instructed to go to a hospital or urgent care clinic. You should call ahead to make an appointment. The hospital may have a tent or other temporary structure outside, away from the rest of the ER, to isolate those with possible coronavirus. Other medical providers have arranged drive-through testing, so you won’t even have to get out of your car. Below is a map of sites in Massachusetts that are currently offering the coronavirus test.

Other Useful Resources

The COVID-19 Dashboard: The City of Boston’s dashboard of the latest numbers of cases, deaths, and tests in both Boston and Massachusetts

From the CDC:

Symptom Guide: More information on the symptoms of coronavirus.
10 Ways to Manage Your Health at Home: Whether you have a possible or confirmed case.
How to Care for a Sick Person: A comprehensive list of best practices.
How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home: Both everyday steps and the extra steps necessary when there is a sick person in your home.