How to tell if a COVID-19 testing location is legitimate

As the pandemic drags on, it seems like new testing sites pop up every day. How can a person tell which locations offer legitimate test results? 

A spokesperson for Austin's COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center said the best way to pick a testing location is to check the health department website, ask a doctor or visit a pharmacy. 

"You don't want to just find a tent on the side of the street and say, 'It sounds great.' If it's a well-known brand that you trust, an organization they trust, chances are, they're going to do a good job of making sure that they have the right test and they guide you through it," said Dr. Anas Daghestani, CEO of Austin Regional Clinic. 

Sometimes a tent on the side of the road may be able to offer the same quality tests. 

Chris Adlakha, owner of Grand Avenue Pharmacy, said he opened pop-up locations to provide antigen tests outdoors all over the city. "So they have the option of just waiting there and they can actually wait and they get an official form, pharmacy form, that tells them whether or not they're negative or positive. They also get, depending on what they choose, either an email or a text," Adlakha said.  

Austin's COVID-19 EOC said they don't keep track of testing sites, but the Texas Department of State Health Services might. DSHS has a map of test collection sites online but said they don't authorize or license test sites either. However, they do advise people to ask three questions when visiting a testing location:

  • What kind of test is being performed, and has it been issued an FDA emergency use agreement (EUA)?
  • What organization/lab is performing the testing?
  • How will I get my test results, and who should I contact if I don’t receive a result?


Doctors said another thing to note is what kind of protective equipment is being used by the person conducting the test. 

"I think somebody who's doing swabbing should still have face protection, goggles, and a mask because that's considered a high-risk procedure. So if somebody doesn't have gloves, goggles, and a mask, I would want to know a little bit more information about that," said Daghestani.  

Adlakha said his pod testing sites offer FDA Emergency Use Agreement tests for $125. People with insurance can apply to be reimbursed. Still, he agrees not all testing sites are the same. 

"Know what tests you're being offered. And do some background, look at their website, find out who these people are. Are they a legitimate doctor's office that has segwayed into a remote site? Or are they a pharmacy? Make sure that there's some really strong medical backing," Adlakha said.  

Doctors said one of the scariest things about fake testing sites is the lack of direction when someone tests negative. For example, if a person was just exposed, they should actually wait about 5 days before there is enough antigen in their system to give an accurate test result. Medical professionals worry false confidence could result in the further spread of the virus.