After Testing

What should I do after my test?

While waiting for your COVID-19 test result, stay home and away from others if:

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of your vaccination status; or
  • You live with someone with COVID-19  and need to quarantine  because you are not yet up to date on your vaccines; or
  • You have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and you need to quarantine because you are not yet up to date on your vaccines; or
  • You were told by a healthcare provider or a public health official to stay home.

Think about the people you have recently been around so you can prepare to tell them if your test is positive. You can use a helpful VDH tool: Notify Your ContactsSpanish, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Tagalog, Amharic (1/5/22 - translations posted 1/19/2022) to remember everyone you have been around.

Call 9-1-1 or seek emergency medical care right away if you have ANY of the following: trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that won’t go away, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

What do your test results mean?

Viral (Molecular or Antigen) Tests

A positive viral test means you have COVID-19 and need to stay home and away from others (isolate), regardless of your vaccination status. Being vaccinated for COVID-19 will not make your COVID-19 viral test positive. If you have recently received a positive COVID-19 test result, you can share it anonymously through the COVIDWISE Exposure Notification app to notify people you were in close contact with who also use the app. 

If you test negative on a viral test, you were probably not infected at the time your sample was taken. However, it is possible you were very early in your infection when you were tested and you could test positive later, or you could get COVID-19 later and then get sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, continue to stay home and contact a healthcare provider for additional guidance. If you have had close contact with someone known or suspected to have COVID-19, you may need to quarantine (stay home) and should take other precautions.  

Depending on your circumstances, it is also possible that a second viral test might be recommended to confirm the positive or negative result of the first viral test. The healthcare provider can explain this in more detail.

For at-home or self-testing, if your test result is invalid or indicates an error, your test did not work properly. You should refer to the test’s instructions and/or contact the manufacturer for help.

If you are sick or infected with COVID-19, learn about the steps to take at VDH’s What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?.

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, learn about the steps to take at VDH’s What to do if you were potentially exposed to coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?.

For more information about viral tests: 


Antibody Test Results

If you test positive on an antibody test, you might have been infected in the past with the virus that causes COVID-19. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine how best to care for you based on the test result, along with other factors of your medical history, such as your symptoms, possible exposures, and places you recently traveled. There is also the chance that this test can give a positive result that is wrong (a false positive result). You could also have a positive antibody test if you have been vaccinated for COVID-19. 

If your antibody test is negative, that means antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 were not found in your blood. However, it is possible for this test to give a negative result that is wrong (a false negative result). A negative result may occur if you were tested early in your illness and your body did not have enough time to produce antibodies. This means you might have had COVID-19 even though the test is negative. If this is the case, your healthcare provider will consider the test result together with other parts of your medical history, such as symptoms, possible exposures, and places you recently traveled, to decide how to care for you. It is important that you work with your healthcare provider to help understand the next steps you should take.

It’s important to note that the antibody test result does NOT indicate that you currently are infected, or not infected, with the virus that causes COVID-19.  The result does not confirm whether you are able to spread the virus, or whether you are fully protected against COVID-19. Antibody tests should NOT be used to evaluate a person’s level of immunity or protection from COVID-19 at any time, and especially after the person received a COVID-19 vaccination. An antibody test result should NOT be used to determine if a person needs to be vaccinated against the illness.  

Visit CDC’s Test for Past Infection for more information about antibody testing.


More information about COVID-19

Opens pdf to download

Opens in a new window

External link will open in a new window.  Click link to exit Virginia Department of Health Website.