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Should you be screened for COVID-19?

A woman answering questions on a tablet.

Nov. 16, 2021—If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should get tested for the coronavirus, right? We all know the answer to that question is yes. But sometimes you might need to get tested even if you feel fine. Now an online tool from the National Institutes of Health helps you decide when you should consider doing that.

That tool is called the When to Test Calculator for Individuals, and it's meant to help slow the spread of the coronavirus by helping people make testing decisions based on their chances of having and spreading COVID-19.

You might use the decision tool to see if you are at higher risk of having COVID-19 (and in need of testing) based on such things as your location, vaccine status, mask usage and recent activities. You could also use the tool to know if you should get tested before you travel.

How to use the tool

You just need to answer a few questions at the testing tool website. For example, the tool will ask you about:

  • Your state and county location. The tool uses this data to determine the predicted percentage of people who have COVID-19 in your area.
  • Whether you are fully vaccinated.
  • If you mask up when indoors around people you don't live with.
  • Whether you've had a recent COVID-19 test.
  • How many people outside your household you have contact with.
  • Whether you have recently attended a social gathering or plan to do so soon.

The tool uses your answers to let you know if you should be tested based on your results.

What if the calculator recommends you get tested?

In that case, you may want to consider getting tested before coming into close contact with people from outside your household. To get a COVID-19 test, you can:

  • Go to a community testing site.
  • Ask your doctor or your local health department where to get a test.
  • Buy a COVID-19 test in pharmacies or other stores, including online.

If you test positive for COVID-19, follow your doctor's advice about how to isolate from others.

Get more COVID-19 updates

Check out our Coronavirus health topic center.

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