Here's How Long It Really Takes to Get Your Coronavirus Test Results Back

If you get tested, here's how long you'll be waiting to find out whether or not you have COVID-19.

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Now that COVID-19 testing has become more widespread and many people are back in the world, interacting with colleagues, family members, and friends again, you might be wondering if you should get tested. But there is still a lot of mystery surrounding coronavirus testing. For example, how long does it take to get your test results back? While it could be as fast as 24 hours, it's typically taking three to five days for people to get their results back.

The timing of your results depends as much on the administrative delays as it does on the time it takes for a laboratory to process the actual samples. Most laboratories really only need a few hours to determine whether a patient has contracted the coronavirus, but the time it takes to get results is contingent upon how overwhelmed the lab is depending on demand. In the early days of the pandemic, some people had to wait up to seven to 10 days to get their results. That, fortunately, has improved.

stack of coronavirus tests
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WebMD notes "it may take a lab about 24 hours to run your test. But you might not get your results for several days." Norton Healthcare similarly says coronavirus test results "are usually provided within a few days." And Quest Diagnostics also says "test results are typically available within three days, but turnaround time can vary due to high demand."

One other variable to consider in terms of COVID-19 test results is how sick a patient might be. For example, the Cleveland Clinic says, "for patients in the hospital, and those tested in our emergency departments who are considered very ill or at risk, results are available within 24 hours (on average)."

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As the nation gets close to entering the fourth month of the coronavirus pandemic, there is some encouraging news that the "curve" of new cases has flattened and that health care facilities are no longer as overwhelmed. But as Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned recently, we are far from over the outbreak that he described as his "worst nightmare."

Public health officials are warning of a possible second wave of COVID-19 cases, with businesses across the country opening up, combined with the large scale protests in response to the murder of George Floyd. As a result, the demand for coronavirus testing will likely only become greater. But now that testing infrastructure has ramped up, results should be more quickly available. And for more testing tips, check out The Secret Way You Can Get a Free Coronavirus Antibody Test.

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