Symptoms and Testing: COVID-19 - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Symptoms and Testing: COVID-19

On this page:
When to get tested
Where to get tested
Getting your test results
What to do about your test results
Testing for COVID-19 antibodies


  • Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, congestion, or loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after you are exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms, and some people may not have any symptoms.
  • Even after recovering from COVID-19, some people may have lingering symptoms such as fatigue, cough, or joint pain. The long-term health effects are still unknown but there may be permanent damage to the heart, lungs, or other organs. This is more likely in those who had more severe illness but may also be possible even in those who had mild illness.  
  • Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about symptoms.
  • Is it COVID-19?
    Minnesota's tool with symptoms and when to seek medical help.

When to get tested

  • If you have any symptoms, get tested for COVID-19. Talk to your health care provider if you want more information. 
  • If you have been in a high-risk situation, get tested for COVID-19.  High-risk situations include:   
    • Knowing you were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. In general, being a close contact means you spent more than 15 minutes at less than 6 feet away from someone with COVID-19.  
      • If you think you may have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 but aren’t sure, get tested.
    • Large group gatherings, especially with limited social distancing and/or few people wearing masks.
    • If you do not have symptoms, it is best to get tested between 5-7 days after you’ve been in a high-risk situation. If your test is negative, get tested again around 12 days after the event. It can take 2-14 days for COVID-19 to develop, so even if you test negative once, you could still develop COVID-19 later and spread it unknowingly.  Talk to your health care provider to get more advice on when to get tested.
  • Should I Get Tested for COVID-19?
    Minnesota's screening tool to help you determine if you should be tested for COVID-19.

Where to get tested

There are many testing options. See COVID-19 Testing Locations for what's available in Minnesota.

Getting your test results

  • The clinic that did your testing will get the results to you.
  • It can take several days for test results to come back.
      • While you are waiting for your test results, you should stay home and separate yourself from other people in your home as much as possible. Wash your hands often and clean frequently touched surfaces.
  • Do not call MDH to get your test results.

What to Do While You Wait for a COVID-19 Test Result (PDF)
Updated 8/24/20

What to do about your test results

My test results came back and I have symptoms

If you receive a positive test result and have symptoms, plan on staying home until all three things are true:

  • You feel better. Your cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms are better; and,
  • It has been 10 days since you first felt sick; and,
  • You have had no fever for the last 24 hours, without using medicine that lowers fever.

If you receive a negative test result but have symptoms, talk to your doctor or other health care provider.

  • If they say you have a different disease, follow their advice for how long to stay home.
  • If there is not another diagnosis, you should still stay home from work, school, and other settings until your symptoms are better and you do not have a fever. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be similar to other illnesses, like flu, and you don’t want to spread those illnesses to others.

My test is positive and I do not have symptoms

If you receive a positive test, you will need to stay home and away from others for at least 10 days from the testing date whether or not you have symptoms of COVID-19. You will be contacted by a public health worker who will give you more information.

My test is negative and I was in contact with someone with COVID-19

If you receive a negative test result but were tested because you were in contact with someone who has COVID-19, you still need to stay home for 14 days from your last contact with that person. This is because you still could become sick with COVID-19. It can take up to two weeks for a person who was exposed to COVID-19 to become sick, so if you were tested early after being exposed, the test may not have detected the virus yet.

My test is negative and I did not have symptoms

If you get a negative test result and did not have symptoms of COVID-19, you should still wear a mask when you go out, stay 6 feet away from others, and wash your hands often to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19. A negative test at one point in time does not protect you from getting exposed or becoming sick with COVID-19 at another time. If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 or develop symptoms, contact your health care provider about getting tested again.

Testing for COVID-19 antibodies

Antibody tests, also called serology tests, can be used to tell if someone may have had SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The timing of when someone gets a test and the type of test used can affect how accurate the test is.

We still do not know how well these tests work. None of the tests on the market have been fully studied and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the FDA and federal health and human services have given some of the tests special, temporary approval to test for antibodies.

Accurate test results can tell someone if they have antibodies against a coronavirus. People with the antibodies may be protected against getting infected with COVID-19 again. However, we do not know yet if these people really are protected. If they are protected, we do not know yet how long they are protected. Test results will help those studying the disease learn more about if and how long someone is protected.

It can be helpful for public health workers to find out what percentage of people who did not have symptoms or had very mild symptoms may have had the virus. This information will help determine how the virus can spread from someone who does not appear to be sick.

Accurate testing may also make it possible one day for people with the antibodies to donate their plasma to fight COVID-19. Studies are ongoing to see if plasma with these antibodies can help very sick people recover from the disease.

How antibody tests work

Blood is drawn for an antibody test. An accurate antibody test can tell if someone had an infection in the past, not if someone is sick now. Our bodies make antibodies to fight infections. It usually takes one to three weeks to make antibodies after being infected with COVID-19; it may take some people longer. If antibodies are found in the blood, a person may have come in contact with a certain virus. If someone is tested too soon, their body may not have had time to build up the antibodies that the test is trying to find.

What test results mean

A positive test result does not always mean you have had COVID-19 disease. A negative result does not always mean that you have never had COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. However, SARS-CoV-2 is just one of many types of coronavirus. Current antibody tests may not be specific to SARS-CoV-2. This means that if you have antibodies from any coronavirus, you may test positive.

Whether or not you have had a positive antibody test, MDH recommends that everyone do everything they can to stop the spread of COVID-19: stay home as much as you can; wear facemasks in public and stay 6 feet away from others; wash your hands a lot; avoid touching your face with unwashed hands; and cover your cough with your shoulder or arm.

What antibody tests cannot tell us

An antibody test cannot tell someone if they currently have COVID-19. It can only tell someone if they may have had it in the past. A different lab test is used to tell if someone has it at the moment.

Antibody tests cannot tell if someone can get COVID-19 again. We do not know yet how long antibodies for the virus that causes COVID-19 last or if they can keep people from getting it again.

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that the best use for antibody tests is to study what percent of people may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Getting an antibody test

It is best to talk to your doctor or other health care provider about whether you should get an antibody test. Be careful if you are offered antibody tests, especially online. Some tests on the market are fake. Some people selling them are scammers. Some online offers are connected to computer malware.

Updated Friday, 09-Oct-2020 14:58:25 CDT