A negative rapid test, with swab, solution, and test kit

Positive at-home test? Report it!


What is at-home COVID testing?

  • An at-home COVID-19 test is a rapid test that you do at home and get results within 15-30 minutes.
  • When you use an at-home test, you collect your own sample from your nose or throat.
  • When taking an at-home test, it’s important to carefully follow all instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • There are many related testing terms:
    • Antigen tests: Tests that detect a specific viral antigen (part of the virus). Most at-home tests are antigen tests. Antigen tests can also be performed at clinics and other testing sites.
    • Point-of-care tests: Tests performed by a trained individual at a site such as a public or private clinic, pharmacy, or school. These tests can be antigen or PCR tests.
    • Rapid tests: Tests that produce results within 15-30 minutes. The sample is not sent to a lab to be processed. At-home tests are rapid tests. Rapid tests can also be done at clinics and other testing sites.
    • Self-tests: Another term for at-home tests.
    • At-home collection kits: Another type of COVID-19 test where you collect your own sample at home, but you send that sample to a lab for processing and get your results a few days later. 

Where can I find at-home tests?

  • People who live in Wisconsin can go to the Say Yes! COVID Test website and place an order for a package of five rapid antigen COVID-19 tests at no cost. Each household can order one package a month. The tests will arrive in 1-2 weeks.
  • You can find at-home tests in stores, pharmacies, and online.
  • Health insurers are required to reimburse up to eight tests per month, per member. Check with your insurance provider for details.

When can I use an at-home test?

At-home COVID tests can be used:

  • For testing because you have COVID symptoms, were a close contact, or someone in your home was exposed or has COVID symptoms
  • For testing for work or school (some employers and schools may require a point-of-care test (PCR or antigen test)
  • Before or after attending gatherings or parties
  • After large events, such as festivals, conferences, faith-based services, or sports games
  • After travel

At-home COVID tests cannot be used:

  • To meet travel requirements
  • For entry to establishments that require proof of vaccination
  • For employers, schools, or events that require a point-of-care test PCR or antigen test
  • To prove past infection. If you test positive with an at-home test, without a second, positive test result from a health care provider or community testing site, a positive at-home test result will not be referenced to identify a 90-day period of possible immunity. This means you are not exempt from isolation if you test positive again within 90 days after you tested positive with an at-home COVID-19 test.

Your Test Results

I tested positive using an at-home test. What do I do?

  • It’s likely you have COVID-19. Self-isolate and notify your close contacts. Read instructions for what to do once you've tested positive.
  • Report your positive test to Public Health Madison & Dane County to help Public Health better understand the level of COVID in our community. Please enter separate surveys for each individual who tested positive via a home test.
  • Although at-home COVID-19 tests are convenient and can provide quick results, tests from a health care provider or at a community testing site are often more reliable. Collecting your own sample and performing the test at home can increase your chances of receiving an inaccurate result compared to collection and interpretation by a trained health professional. If you think your home test result may be incorrect, consider receiving a confirmatory point-of-care test from a clinic, pharmacy, or one of our community testing sites. Confirmatory testing should be conducted within 48 hours of taking your home test. It is especially important to get a confirmatory test if you need to prove later that you’ve already had COVID-19, such as for foreign travel.

I tested negative using an at-home test. I do not have symptoms, but I had close contact with someone with COVID-19. What do I do?

  • Wear a high quality, well-fitting mask when around others in your home or in indoor public spaces for 10 full days after you were exposed (with the date of last contact being day 0).
  • Take another home test at least 48 hours later (our blog explains more on why). You could also seek out confirmatory point-of-care testing from a clinic, pharmacy, or one of our community testing sites.

I tested negative using an at-home test, but I have symptoms of COVID-19. What do I do?

  • It's possible you have COVID-19. Self-isolate at home.
  • Take another home test at least 48 hours later (our blog explains more on why). You could also seek out confirmatory point-of-care testing from a clinic, pharmacy, or one of our community testing sites.

I tested negative using an at-home test. I do not have symptoms and I did not have close contact with someone who has COVID-19. What do I do?

  • Take another home test at least 48 hours later (our blog explains more on why). You could also seek out confirmatory point-of-care testing from a clinic, pharmacy, or one of our community testing sites.

  • You cannot use an at-home test result for clearance for travel. You will need a point-of-care test for travel.

Authorized At-Home Test Kits and Expiration Dates

  • The FDA has a searchable list of authorized at-home test kits.
  • Many have had their expiration dates extended if the manufacturer provided data showing that the shelf-life is longer than was known when the test was first authorized. You can search the list for the test you have and see if the expiration date has been extended.