What to Do While Waiting for Your COVID-19 Test Results

Published on February 03, 2021

happy woman reading results on phone

What to Do While Waiting for COVID-19 Test Results

Even after almost a year of battling COVID-19, you may still be wondering about what to do after a COVID test. Unless you did the rapid test, it can take three days to receive your results. Depending on your situation, those few days can be agonizing not knowing if you have COVID-19 and if you have exposed anyone. 

There are several reasons why you may have gotten a COVID test, ranging from experiencing symptoms, a potential exposure, surgery, or for travel, among others. Amra Nasir, MD, medical director at Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care, shares what you should do while you await your test results.

Experiencing symptoms or exposure

If you’ve been experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, you should take precautions to limit the spread of the virus.

“Close contact is if you have been within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more, provided care to someone who is sick, had direct physical contact with the person, shared eating utensils or if they got respiratory droplets on you by sneezing or coughing,” says Dr. Nasir.

Experiencing symptoms and being exposed to the virus should be treated the same way while waiting for your test results:

  • Monitor your health
    Watch for symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat
  • Stay home to protect others from potential exposure
  • Keep away from others and isolate from others in your household if possible
  • Think about when you may have been around others that you could have exposed to let them know they were potentially exposed should you test positive
  • Keep in touch with the health department for contact tracing

Pre-op COVID-19 test

If you are scheduled to have surgery and need a pre-op COVID-19 test, you should take precautions similar to those who have been exposed or are exhibiting symptoms. This will ensure you aren't exposed between the time of the test and surgery.

  • Monitor your health
  • Stay home
  • Avoid seeing others outside of your household and encourage others in your household to do so as well


Testing before and after travel can help limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. You should get tested 1-3 days before leaving and 3-5 days after your trip. In the meantime, you should:

  • Stay home for seven days, even if you test negative and are asymptomatic.
  • Avoid seeing others outside of your household
  • Monitor your health

“In addition to the above suggestions based on your situation, continue to take precautions of wearing a face mask, washing your hands frequently, social distancing and covering coughs and sneezes,” says Dr. Nasir.

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