COVID-19 diagnostic testing is now widely available, and in many cases, there is no cost due to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. You can get tested whether you are currently experiencing symptoms or are concerned you were exposed to someone with the virus, even if you have no symptoms of illness. To locate a free community testing event near you or find links to testing providers, visit our testing page.
New testing methods have been developed since the start of the pandemic for detecting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Some involve inserting a swab into the nose, others require a spit sample. While most labs can turn results back in two to three days, new rapid testing kits can provide results in as little as 15 minutes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of tests for diagnosing an active COVID-19 infection:
PCR test. This COVID-19 test detects genetic material (RNA) of the virus using a lab technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR tests are considered highly accurate, but running the tests and analyzing the results can take time. Results may be available in as little as 24 hours or a few days depending on the lab's proximity to the testing site and other factors.
PCR tests require that a health care worker collects fluid from the nose or throat. Many coronavirus testing sites have started using shorter, less invasive swabs to swab inside the nostrils and don’t go as far into the nose as the long, uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swab. Saliva-based PCR testing is now also available, where you spit into a small collection tube.
- Antigen test. This COVID-19 test detects certain proteins in the virus. Using a nose or throat swab to get a fluid sample, rapid antigen tests can produce results in minutes. A positive antigen test result is considered very accurate, but there's an increased chance of false-negative results — meaning it's possible to be infected with the virus but still have a negative result. Depending on the situation, your health care provider may recommend a PCR test to confirm a negative antigen test result.
NOTE: While they sound similar, antigen tests are not the same as antibody tests. Antibody, or serology, tests are used to detect a past infection with COVID-19 and require a blood sample to detect the presence of antibodies. Antibody tests are not designed to detect an active infection of the virus and should not be used for diagnostic purposes.
Free community COVID-19 diagnostic testing is widely available and test types vary by testing site. There also may be minimum ages for certain types of tests. For more information and locations near you visit our testing page or call 2-1-1.
A “false positive” test is one where the result of the test is positive, but the person being tested does not have COVID-19. A “false negative” test is one where the result of the test is negative, but the person being tested does have COVID-19.
False positive and false negative results occur with all laboratory tests, and the likelihood of this occurring varies by test.
COVID-19 PCR tests are very “specific,” which is a scientific term that means the likelihood of receiving false positive COVID-19 PCR result is very low. Most COVID-19 PCR tests have a false positive rate of <1%, which is extremely accurate for a laboratory test.
If you test positive for COVID-19 by a PCR test, you should assume you have COVID – even if you don’t have any symptoms! Because the test has such a low rate of false positive results, it is very unlikely that you do not have COVID.
Because the rate of false positive tests is lower than the rate of false negative tests, this does not account for Maricopa County’s high case numbers.
COVID-19 PCR tests are very “sensitive,” which is a scientific term that means the likelihood of receiving false negative COVID-19 PCR result is low. However, you are more likely to get a false negative test result than a false positive test result.
Most COVID-19 PCR tests have a false negative rate of <5%, which is also very accurate for a laboratory test.
If you test negative for COVID-19 by a PCR test, but are concerned you might still have COVID-19 because you have symptoms, you can consider getting retested, if you choose.
Infected Individuals and Isolation
If you have tested positive, please visit the COVID Positive page to find out what you should do next.
Not sure how long you should isolate once you’ve tested positive? Use our Home Isolation Decision-Maker to find out.
Close Contacts and Quarantine
Close contact is being within 6 feet of someone infected with COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* starting from 2 days before the person shows symptoms (or, for those with no symptoms, 2 days prior to when they were tested) until the time the infected person begins their home isolation period. *Individual exposures added together over a 24-hour period (e.g., three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes).
If you are a household member or a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should stay at home and follow the quarantine guidance.
If you have no symptoms, you should stay quarantined at home for 10 full days after your last exposure to a person with COVID-19. To calculate when your quarantine can end, mark the day of your last exposure as Day 0, and count 10 days from that date. If you have no symptoms, you can come out of quarantine after those 10 days have passed, or in other words, on Day 11 after your last exposure.
If you would like to end quarantine early by getting a negative COVID-19 test, you must wait to get tested until after 5 full days have passed since your last exposure to a person with COVID-19. To calculate when that will be, mark the day of your last exposure as Day 0, and count 5 days from that date. You can get that test after those 5 days have passed, or in other words, on Day 6 after your last exposure.
You should get either a PCR or antigen test. These tests will be performed by a nose or throat swab or saliva collection. A serology (blood) test will NOT allow you to end quarantine early.
You should get either a PCR or antigen test. These tests will be performed by a nose or throat swab or saliva collection. A serology (blood) test will NOT allow you to end quarantine early.
If you were tested for COVID-19 after 5 full days of quarantine, that test was negative, and you have not had any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 since your exposure, you can end quarantine after 7 full days have passed since your last exposure to a person with COVID-19.
To calculate when your quarantine can end, mark the day of your last exposure as Day 0, and count 7 days from that date. You can come out of quarantine after those 7 days have passed, or in other words, on Day 8 after your last exposure.
A person exposed to COVID-19 can develop symptoms of COVID-19 for up to 14 days after their last exposure. The risk of becoming infectious and infecting another person after 10 days following their last exposure is very low.
However, since it is still possible, CDC, ADHS, and MCDPH recommend you continue to monitor for symptoms and wear a mask for the full 14 days following COVID-19 exposure, even if your quarantine has ended.
A person exposed to COVID-19 can develop symptoms of COVID-19 for up to 14 days after their last exposure. Even though the risk of becoming infectious and infecting another person after 7 days with a negative test or 10 days without a test is low, CDC, ADHS, and MCDPH recommend a person ending quarantine before 14 days monitor for symptoms and wear a mask for the full 14 days following exposure to decrease the risk that person might infect someone else.
If a person who was exposed to COVID-19 is unable to wear a mask, they need to quarantine at home for the full 14 days.
CDC, ADHS, and MCDPH all agree that a face shield cannot be used in place of a face mask. Face shields are used primarily to protect the wearer from droplet spray, but do not protect the wearer from inhaling droplets or from spreading droplets to others.
Masks and Other Prevention Tools
In light of the rapid growth in positive COVID-19 cases, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved regulations related to wearing masks countywide effective June 20, 2020. The mandate creates consistent minimum mask-wearing requirements across all jurisdictions while allowing cities and towns to set their own policies and regulations related to face coverings.
Here are some things to know generally about wearing a face covering:
- The general public should wear a cloth face covering or mask. Unless you are working in a healthcare setting, you should not wear medical grade masks or respirators to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
- While wearing a cloth face covering or mask, make sure it fits properly and that it is secure around your mouth and nose, but still allows you to breathe normally.
- Do not re-use a disposable mask and always change it as soon as it gets damp.
- Face coverings should not be worn by children under age 2 or those who have trouble breathing, any inability to tolerate wearing it, or if they are unable to remove it without assistance.
Yes, cloth face coverings or masks are safe to wear.
Although cloth face coverings or masks can feel uncomfortable or unusual, especially if you’re new to wearing them, medical experts say they do not lead to carbon dioxide intoxication or oxygen deficiency and are safe to wear for long periods of time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised using cloth face coverings or masks for the general public to reduce the chance of getting COVID-19. Wearing a cloth face covering or mask also decreases your chance of spreading COVID-19 to others, especially when you cannot be at least 6 feet away from other people.
Some people with pre-existing respiratory illnesses (like asthma, emphysema or COPD), might have difficulty breathing when using certain types of tightly fitting masks, called respirators. If you have concerns about wearing a mask due to a medical condition, please talk with your healthcare provider about whether you should wear a cloth face covering mask.
No. “Face mask exempt cards” that reference the U. S. Department of Justice and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are fraudulent. The ADA website has more information on these fraudulent materials.
Individuals who have concerns about whether they should wear a cloth face covering or mask due to their underlying medical conditions should consult their healthcare provider for individual recommendations.
Yes, masks help contain respiratory droplets that carry the virus, which makes us less likely to infect others.
COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. These droplets can fly through the air and land in another’s person’s mouth or nose up to 6 feet away. When used with social distancing, cloth face coverings or masks can provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.
There is evidence that cloth masks made of household materials provide about 60% filtration of particles of droplet size (range from 3-86%) from coming into contact with the person wearing a cloth face covering or mask. There is also a lot of evidence that masks keep particles inside the mask (called “source control”), which is important due to the high number of people with COVID-19 who do not have symptoms.
Maricopa County daily counts may vary slightly from state reporting due to differences in data reporting download times. Maricopa County reports daily data for confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 (people with positive PCR or antigen tests).
County public health investigators are responsible for following up on cases reported to public health to collect additional data such as symptoms, severity of illness (i.e., whether they were hospitalized), demographic information, and possible exposures to others.
Every person who has COVID-19 listed on their death certificate as a cause of death is counted. In order to capture most of the deaths associated with COVID-19, those who die within 60 days of a positive PCR test for COVID-19 also are initially considered a COVID-associated death. Then, epidemiologists regularly review and exclude those deaths due to injury or poisoning (which would include car accidents, gunshots and overdoses) where it’s clear COVID-19 is not the primary cause. This data review process is an important part of making sure we are not overcounting deaths.
Public Health will continue to revise death counts (as shown on our public dashboard reporting system) as this process is repeated over the course of the pandemic. It’s important to emphasize we will not have a final count of deaths caused by and associated with COVID-19 until after the pandemic.
Questions about how vaccines are being distributed, vaccine safety, and more? See the general vaccine FAQ.
- Coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
- Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. There are several known coronaviruses that infect people and usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold.
- You can learn more about COVID-19 at the CDC website.
COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). A person infected with COVID-19 may not show symptoms until 2-5 days after they are exposed to the virus, or may show no symptoms at all. That means a person can be spreading the virus to others without even knowing they are infected. You can help protect yourself and others by keeping 6 feet away from others, wearing a face covering in public spaces, and practicing good handwashing.
Symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included 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, and diarrhea.
Most people who contract COVID-19 will experience mild symptoms. Among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk. There are also other factors that can increase your risk for severe illness, such as having underlying medical conditions, including heart, kidney or lung disease, diabetes, and obesity. Severe illness means that the person with COVID-19 may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die.
There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 will receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.
It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. Healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19. This means getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever.
While getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, there are many important benefits, such as:
- Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death.
- Getting a flu vaccine can also save healthcare resources for the care of patients with COVID-19.
Check with your healthcare provider or local pharmacy about flu shots in your area. Our three childhood immunization clinics around Maricopa County also have the flu shot free for anyone 6 months through 18 years of age! Please call ahead to ensure vaccine is available. It takes about two weeks to build immunity to the virus so be sure to plan ahead to make sure you and your family are protected.
At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
Based on the limited information available to-date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. A small number of pets have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after they have had contact with people with COVID-19.
Pets have other types of coronaviruses that can make them sick, like canine (dog) and feline (cat) coronaviruses. These other coronaviruses cannot infect people and are not related to the current COVID-19 outbreak.
However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals, such as washing your hands and maintaining good hygiene. For more information on the many benefits of pet ownership, as well as staying safe and healthy around animals including pets, livestock, and wildlife, visit CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People website.
People of all ages can be infected by the virus that causes COVID-19. In Maricopa County, approximately 13% of COVID-19 cases to date have been among ages 0-19.
The CDC describes fever and cough as the most common symptoms of COVID-19 in children. In Maricopa County, we see a similar pattern among children under age 12. Older children tend to report more symptoms overall than younger ones, but have fever less than half the time, similar to adults. The most common symptoms reported are similar to many viral infections – fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, cold symptoms, or diarrhea. See our School FAQs for other related topics.
While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. Risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, and even more for those who are immune-suppressed or have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, kidney or lung disease, obesity, or diabetes.
CDC and partners are investigating cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. Learn more about COVID-19 and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
According to CDC, it is not yet fully known whether weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 is new, and we’re still learning about it.
Some other viruses, like those that cause the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19, and investigations are ongoing.
As we have seen here in Maricopa County, you can catch COVID-19 no matter how sunny or hot the weather is. Cases reached new high levels during June when temperatures were into the 100s.
- https://www.maricopa.gov/5493/K-12-Schools-and-Childcare-Facilities#parents https://www.maricopa.gov/5493/K-12-Schools-and-Childcare-Facilities#parents https://www.maricopa.gov/5493/K-12-Schools-and-Childcare-Facilities#parents COVID-19 in Schools Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Protect Yourself and Others
- CDC COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (also in Spanish and Chinese)