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About the Tests

There are different types of COVID-19 tests to choose from at the Boise State Public Health Testing Center. Please review the information below to determine which COVID-19 testing options may be best for you.  In addition, if you are required to have a COVID-19 test as part of travel or work, please check with those requiring the test to ensure you get the type of test you need.

Laboratory Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (PCR Test)

  • Looks for genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 and influenza (A/B) viruses by using sophisticated chemicals and equipment to reproduce millions to billions of copies of viral-related DNA from even the smallest sample.
  • Sample is an anterior nasal swab
  • Results usually in 1-3 business days
  • Results are reliable for people with and without symptoms
  • No follow-up test required
  • For young children or others that may not feel comfortable with a nasal swab, a saliva-based test can be performed but will only test for COVID-19, not influenza.

PCR is the most preferred and accurate type of COVID-19 test.

PCR or nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) are typically the most reliable tests for people with or without symptoms. These tests detect viral genetic material, which may stay in your body for up to 90 days after you test positive.

PCR COVID-19/Flu Combo tests are available by appointment at the Public Health Testing Center on campus. For young children or those who may not feel comfortable with a nasal swab, a saliva test may be requested but will only test for COVID-19, not influenza.In most cases, insurance will cover the full cost of the PCR test. For more billing information, please visit our Testing Service and Charges page.

Rapid Test (Antigen Test)

  • Searches for pieces of protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and therefore requires a higher level of virus in the sample as compared to a PCR test before the test will turn positive.
  • Sample is an anterior nasal swab
  • Results usually in 15 minutes
  • Rapid tests are more likely to generate false negative results, especially when performed on people who don’t have symptoms or if the sample is not collected correctly
  • Follow-up test may be recommended to confirm an antigen test result

Rapid Point-of-Care COVID-19 tests are available at the Public Health Testing Center. There is a $20 charge for each antigen test, due at the time of service, regardless of insurance status or affiliation. 

Accessing Free or Low-Cost At-Home COVID-19 Tests

Four free at-home tests for each U.S. household are again available.  Order free tests here.

Other options for campus community members to secure free or low-cost at-home COVID-19 tests include:

  • Private health insurers are required to cover up to eight FDA-authorized COVID-19 at-home (rapid antigen) tests per member per month. Individuals who have private insurance plans should consult their insurance company to determine the most efficient way to access at-home tests. Individuals may be able to secure these tests through local or national pharmacy chains who will bill their insurance plan directly. 
      • Campus community members covered under the state’s health plan who purchase FDA-authorized at-home tests will be able to submit a claim form, with a receipt, for reimbursement to Blue Cross of Idaho. Tests can be purchased online, at any standard network pharmacy or in stores. Purchases are limited to no more than eight tests per enrolled member, per calendar month. Visit the State of Idaho Office of Group Insurance’s website for more information and for the COVID-19 test reimbursement form.
  • Idaho Medicaid covers 12 COVID-19 tests per person per month. Individuals with Idaho Medicaid insurance can receive free at-home COVID-19 tests by showing their insurance card and a prescription at the pharmacy counter. If you don’t have a prescription from your medical provider, the pharmacist can prescribe these test kits for you.

Additional Information about At-Home Testing

It is important to read the complete manufacturer’s instructions before using an at-home test.  If you do not follow the manufacturer’s instructions, your test result may be incorrect.

  • Positive results from at-home tests are highly reliable.
  • Negative results from at-home tests do not rule out COVID-19 infection. A negative at-home test result may not be reliable, especially if you have symptoms associated with COVID-19. If you are symptomatic and receive negative results from an at-home test, it is recommended that you test again with a PCR test and isolate while awaiting results.
  • Invalid results from at-home tests mean the test did not work properly, and a new test is needed to get an accurate result.

To learn more about at-home testing, please visit the CDC’s Self-Testing At Home or Anywhere page.

At-Home COVID-19 Test Expiration Dates

Most COVID-19 home test kits have received expiration extensions from the FDA. To see if a manufacturer’s COVID-19 test kit has an expiration extension, see the List of Authorized At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests.

Regardless of the type of COVID-19 test you select or where you are tested, a positive test result means that you are infected with COVID-19 and should stay home from campus, isolate from others and contact Boise State Public Health at or (208) 426-2968 immediately to determine next steps.

To learn more about COVID-19 testing options, please visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know page.