What to know about COVID testing


Rowan O'Flanagan

A screenshot of the Hillsborough County Public Schools COVID dashboard displays recent student and staff case numbers. The start of 2022 has been characterized by skyrocketing case counts across the country.

Rowan O'Flanagan, Opinion's Editor

With COVID surging around the country, COVID tests can be hard to come by. Read below to learn about the different types of tests and where you can find them. 


PCR Tests: PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, is a process used to multiply specific pieces of genetic material. That material is then run through an analysis to determine if any COVID viral DNA is present. Though these tests are more accurate, they take longer to complete and cannot be performed at home without advanced equipment.

Antigen Tests:

Often called rapid tests, these tests work by binding to molecules found on the surfaces of viral particles, known as antigens. Though they are less accurate than PCR tests, rapid test results can be obtained in minutes, even at home.


At home COVID testing:

Anyone can request four completely free rapid tests per household from the federal government to be shipped to their home at the link below. The U.S. Postal Service says the testing kits “typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering.” 


Private insurance companies are also now required to cover up to eight at home rapid tests each month, with reimbursement from the federal government. Though specific details may vary by the insurance carrier, rapid tests can be purchased at a variety of stores including CVS, Walgreens and Target. 




PCR and Other Testing Locations: 

The City of Tampa operates numerous free testing sites around the area, offering both PCR and antigen tests. You can register for an appointment here: 


CVS, Walgreens and Quest Diagnostics are also offering testing (free with insurance) at stores throughout Tampa.