Should I Get Tested for COVID-19?

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By Nick Clay, Director, Emergency Medical Services Agency, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department 

As we all try to navigate life during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand when we should consider getting tested for coronavirus, and where to get tested if necessary.  

Do you think that you or a loved one should be tested for COVID-19? The County of Santa Barbara is asking those who are at low or no risk who “want” to be tested to defer at this time, giving priority to those who “need” to be tested. If you are not sure whether you need to be tested, consider these questions:  

  • Do you work in a high-risk environment where you have frequent interaction with the public? 
  • Do you live or work in a group-living situation? 
  • Examples: assisted living facilities, senior living facilities, group homes 
  • Are you an essential worker? 
  • Examples: public service, grocery store, utility worker 
  • Has a health care provider advised you to get tested? 
  • Have you had close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19?
  • In order for a situation to be considered close contact, the following 4 elements must be present: 
    • Contact for more than 15 minutes 
    • With a COVID positive individual, neither party is wearing a face covering
    • Within 6 feet of each other  
    • In an enclosed space
  • Do you have symptoms of COVID-19? 

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then you should consider being tested for COVID-19. There are a number of options to get tested, including through your healthcare provider, some pharmacies, and urgent care centers that offer testing.  If you don’t have a healthcare provider, we encourage you visit the Public Health website to see if you are eligible for healthcare through the County’s clinics.  Another option is the local community testing sites.  Insurance is not required, however if you have insurance your health insurance will be billed, but there are no out-of-pocket costs or co-pays.

Our community testing sites are listed here:  

Santa Maria: Santa Maria Fairpark 
937 Thornburg Street, Santa Maria, CA 93458

Santa Barbara: Earl Warren Showgrounds
3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Buellton: AMR Central Training Center
240 E. Hwy 246, Suite 110, Buellton, CA 93427

Online appointment registration: 

Telephone appointment registration: (888) 634-1123 

We ask if you have made an appointment at a community test site, and for any reason are not able to make the appointment or have decided not to attend, please cancel. This will open up an appointment opportunity for someone who needs to schedule an appointment. And again, if you have been following state and local guidance and have not had any exposure to COVID-19, then you are at low risk and should defer your testing.  

So, what do you do if you truly are at risk, and need to get tested but can’t get an appointment? 

  • If you are symptomatic, call your healthcare provider and seek guidance. 
  • Individuals without access to healthcare may be eligible for care from the County’s public health department healthcare centers. 
  • They may recommend you stay home and not direct you to get tested in order to avoid exposure to others. Trust your healthcare provider to guide you in the right direction. 
  • Remember the free community testing sites are not the only place you can get a COVID-19 test. 
  • Healthcare providers, urgent care centers, community clinics, and even some pharmacies provide testing. Call ahead to avoid unnecessary exposure.  

Please keep in mind the result of a COVID-19 test reflects whether or not you have coronavirus in the moment you take the test. A negative result does not mean you are free to engage in COVID-19-risky behaviors, such as attending large gatherings or neglecting to wear a mask. A negative result simply means you did not have COVID-19 when you took the test, it is critical that we all continue to wear a face covering and comply with the state and local guidance. 

The most powerful thing we can do in the fight against COVID-19 is to care about each other. Our actions today have a dramatic impact on our community. Follow the guidelines that have been laid out, for yourself and for all of those around you. If you know you will not be attending your scheduled testing appointment, please cancel it.  

It is vital we all adhere to state and local guidelines regarding COVID-19. Wear a face covering in public, practice physical distancing, and wash your hands frequently. Do not engage in high-risk behaviors, such as attending gatherings large or small at this time. If you do not feel well, stay home, even from work. By following these steps, you are not only reducing your own risk of catching COVID-19, but you are also helping to protect our community and slow the spread of COVID-19.  

Working together, we can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and get back to all of the things we love much more quickly.  

For more information about what the County of Santa Barbara Public Health Department is doing to serve and protect our community through the coronavirus, please visit

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