The RT-PCR tests and rapid antigen tests detect SARS-CoV-2 infections. Both tests offer the advantage of deterring the spread of COVID-19 by identifying positive cases. Patients benefit from understanding the way each test works.

What is PCR Testing?

The RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) test is a laboratory-based test that detects the presence of the virus in a patient’s respiratory tract. A healthcare professional administers the test at a testing location using a nasal swab. It is the gold standard for detecting SARS CoV2.

RT-PCR COVID-19 Testing
Rapid Test Rapid COVID-19 Testing

What is Rapid Antigen Testing?

Rapid antigen testing is available at testing centers or for use at home by individuals without extensive training or equipment. The test works by using a swab to collect a small amount of nasal fluid. Within 15 minutes, results are available. Rapid antigen test results have less reliability compared to PCR test results.

COVID-19 Testing FAQs

Do COVID-19 tests check for the omicron, delta, and other variants?

Yes. The tests detect the presence of COVID-19 from different variants.

How long does it take to get a result after taking the test?

The rapid antigen test gives results within 4-5 hours. The PCR test can take 24-48 hours, depending on the processing time for the lab. Please note that during a surge, the volume of tests processed impacts the timeframe for results for the PCR tests.

Can I take both tests?

Yes. You can take either one or both tests. There are no restrictions or side effects from taking both types of tests.

What if I test positive for COVID-19?

Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 should follow the procedures for isolation and quarantine. For non-emergency healthcare advice, EmergentNOW offers telehealth appointments for COVID-19 medical advice.

Who should test for COVID-19?

Anyone who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should request testing. If you think you might have COVID-19, visit an Emergent Testing drive-up clinic. We offer both PCR and rapid antigen tests.

When is it best to use a rapid antigen test?

A rapid antigen test works best when a patient actively experiences COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, chills, or shortness of breath. Rapid tests are quick, but they may not always give accurate results.

When is it best to use the RT-PCR test?

The RT-PCR test is the most reliable way to diagnose COVID-19. The test is processed in a laboratory setting and requires special equipment and expertise. For the most accurate diagnosis, request PCR testing. Some patients choose the rapid antigen tests for quicker results.

What does a false negative or false positive mean?

A false negative means the person infected with the virus did not show evidence of infection with the test. False positives mean that the test showed evidence of infection even though the individual did not have COVID-19.

What if I have a negative rapid test but still have symptoms?

If you have a negative rapid test and still experience symptoms, you should retest. Follow up the rapid antigen test with the more reliable PCR test. Another illness can cause similar symptoms; however, it’s best to rule out COVID-19 to prevent the spread.


Emergent Testing offers COVID-19 tests to empower patients and stop the spread of the virus. Visit one of our drive-up clinics or pre-register online.