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Wondering if you should get a COVID test? Here's how to get one in San Antonio

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Kathleen Creedon
/
Texas Public Radio
Some COVID-19 rapid tests are available at pharmacies to take at home. They do not require a prescription.

You can read this story in Spanish by clicking here.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to testing for the coronavirus, and the appropriate test will differ depending on your situation. For testing locations in San Antonio, scroll to the bottom of the post. For more information about which masks are best, click here.

Quick facts

  • COVID-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness — generally 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms — and 2-3 days after.
  • If you test positive, isolate for 5 days. If you’re asymptomatic by that time, you can leave isolation and wear a mask around others for 5 days. 
  • The time from exposure to developing symptoms is 2-14 days
  • People who have COVID-19 may be contagious 48 hours before starting to experience symptoms.

PCR

Pros: Highly accurate. Can detect the virus in asymptomatic people.

Cons: Takes longer to receive results

Rapid antigen

Pros: Can be done at home and offer quick results. Good to differentiate cold/flu symptoms from COVID-19 symptoms.

Cons: Less accurate than a PCR, especially if you have no symptoms. User error can affect the results

I have a family gathering coming up.

PCR tests are the most accurate COVID-19 test, but results may take 2-3 days. If you do not have 2-3 days, you can take a rapid test before the event. It’s best to take the rapid test hours before the gathering.

If you receive a positive self-test result, you are likely infectious and should not attend the gathering. If you have symptoms and cannot test, you should not attend the gathering.

It takes 1-2 days after infection to develop symptoms, but can take anywhere from 2-14 days in some cases. To be safe, get tested.

A friend I saw a few days ago, who had symptoms at the time, tested positive today. 

Vaccinated people: The CDC recommends that people who are fully vaccinated get tested 5-7 days after their last exposure.

Unvaccinated people: If you are not fully vaccinated, you should get tested immediately upon finding out you’ve been exposed. If you receive a negative test result, get tested again 5-7 days after the last exposure, or immediately if symptoms develop.

A friend I saw 3 days ago, who had symptoms at the time, tested negative today.

If your friend tested negative but had symptoms, there’s a chance the results are false — especially if they took a rapid test. If they took a PCR test and received negative results, you’re likely in the clear.

If you’re able and have access, it’s always best to get tested just in case. As you await your results, try to limit your exposure to other people and wear masks when you’re indoors or can’t social distance.

I’m traveling on a plane soon.

The CDC recommends travelers delay their trips until fully vaccinated. Be sure to check your destination’s COVID-19 situation before traveling, as well as the local, state and territorial restrictions that may be in place. Wearing a mask is required in indoor areas of public transport and transportations hubs.

Do not travel if you have been exposed to COVID, have symptoms or test positive.

Vaccinated: The CDC does not explicitly recommend vaccinated people get tested before they travel, but with the new omicron variant and asymptomatic cases, it is safest to test before you travel. If you want to get tested upon your return, wait 3-5 days and get a PCR or antigen test.

Unvaccinated: Get tested with either a PCR or antigen test before your trip. Keep in mind, it may take up to 3 days to receive the results of a PCR test, but it is the most accurate test. The CDC also recommends unvaccinated people get tested 3-5 days after the return. In the meantime, stay home and isolate for a full week — even if you test negative at 3-5 days. If you don’t get tested, stay home and isolate yourself for 10 days after travel.

I just traveled on a plane.

Vaccinated: The CDC does not explicitly recommend vaccinated people get tested when they return from traveling. If you want to get tested when you get back, wait 3-5 days and get a PCR or antigen test.

Unvaccinated: The CDC recommends unvaccinated people get tested 3-5 days after the return. In the meantime, stay home and isolate for a full week — even if you test negative at 3-5 days. If you don’t get tested, stay home and isolate yourself for 10 days after travel.

Note: If you work in-person and cannot isolate yourself for 10 days, try to limit your exposure and wear a mask when indoors or when social distancing is not possible.

I want to go to an event that requires a negative test result before attending.

First, check to see which types of tests the event allows and how soon they need them. Requirements may also differ for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. If you can take a rapid or PCR test, do what works best for your schedule. A rapid test will have faster results but will be less accurate. PCR tests take up to 2-3 days to process results.

Increases in local testing may affect the time it takes to process your results, so plan ahead. In advance of your event, limit your exposure and wear a mask in public or when social distancing isn’t possible.

My throat is sore.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should immediately isolate and schedule a test within 3-5 days of developing symptoms. Though you can take a rapid test, you’ll get the most accurate results with a PCR. It will take 2-3 days to receive PCR results, and in that time, you should isolate for 10 days, starting with the first full days after symptoms develop.

Some symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

A friend I saw last week tested positive, but I don’t know if they had COVID when I saw them last.

If you’re able and have access, it’s always best to get tested just in case. As you await your results, try to limit your exposure to other people and wear masks when you’re indoors or can’t social distance.


Isolation

If you test positive for COVID-19 — whether or not you develop symptoms — you should isolate for 10 days.

If you have symptoms, day 1 of your isolation is the first full day after the symptoms first develop.

If you do not develop symptoms, day 1 is the first full day after you get your positive test. If you develop symptoms after testing positive, the 10-day isolation period starts over, and day 1 is the first full day after you develop symptoms.

Where to get rapid and PCR tests in San Antonio

Nervous about visiting older relatives or going to a holiday gathering and want to get tested beforehand? Here’s what you need to know.

CVS Minute clinic: there are mobile testing sites in CVS parking lots across the city. They offer a mix of molecular PCR and rapid tests that are all free. You must schedule an appointment.

Walgreens drive-thru: there are a mix of PCR, rapid antigen and rapid molecular tests for free with an appointment

Schedule a COVID-19 test with the city of San Antonio locations listed here. Some locations require appointments, and some are free.

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Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon
Bri Kirkham can be reached at bri@tpr.org or on Twitter at @BriKirk