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Testing Basics

Considerations for Developing a COVID-19 Testing Strategy

Designing an effective testing strategy will require careful consideration of your group’s goals, resources, and structure. A testing strategy is a tailored plan that not only includes identifying the actual tests used but also describes the steps and factors to address to ensure that testing is rolled out in an effective way. In this section, we identify important factors you that can help you design your own testing strategy.

If you are going to work with a testing service, they should take into account most or all of these factors and your organization’s specific needs. Many end-to-end testing services offer test strategy design options, where the service can help you determine exactly the right plan for your organization and help implement that plan. The testing strategy will also depend on how frequently testing will be performed, how many people must be tested, and your budget. Testing frequency will need to be specific to an organization and may change over time.

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While a testing strategy will be unique to each organization, group, or individual, a few common factors should be considered when creating any testing plan:

  1. Are you trying to determine a current or past infection?
  2. Would you prefer to have samples collected at home or by a trained professional?
  3. How many people will be tested?
  4. What age groups will be tested?

Learn more about developing a COVID-19 testing strategy for:


Business or organizations

Ensuring the health and safety of employees, volunteers, or members of an organization or business is crucial during the pandemic. If you are considering implementing testing for your organization, testing services are now available. Use our selector tool to identify a service that can support your needs.

Many factors should be considered when developing a testing strategy for your organization or determining what type of test an individual may need. Here are some questions to ask:

*The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarified that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers may not mandate that their employees undergo and report serology testing. These services may still be offered but cannot be mandatory practice.


Healthcare providers

Providing the best possible tests and resources for your patients is essential to protecting their health and combating the pandemic. If you are considering providing COVID-19 testing, or looking for resources to augment current testing strategies, testing services are now available that may fit your needs. For commercially available individual tests, refer to our diagnostic and serology test trackers for the latest information on tests with emergency authorization use (EUA) approval in the United States.

In many cases, CLIA labs have EUA approval for lab-developed molecular diagnostics and may be available if you are in a laboratory system.

Here are some important aspects to consider:

  1. Are you trying to determine a current or past infection?
  2. Would you prefer to have samples collected at home or by a trained professional?
  3. How many people will be tested?
  4. What is your budget?
  5. How often are you planning to perform testing?
  6. What age group(s) will you be testing?



If you believe you have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact a health provider and get tested for COVID-19. If you are currently experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911.

Here are important aspects to consider when considering a test for yourself:

  • Are you trying to determine if you had a current or past infection?
  • Would you prefer to collect a sample yourself, or do you want it to be collected by a trained professional?


How often do I need to be tested?

When determining testing frequency, or how often you should perform a test, there are many factors to consider. Generally, testing frequency is a consideration for detecting active infections and would require antigen or molecular diagnostic tests.

These diagnostic tests provide a “snapshot” of an individual’s infection status. In other words, the test result indicates if that person had an active infection at the time of sample collection. A single negative test may not be relevant if, for instance, the next day the person is exposed to a COVID-19 case or engages in risky activities (such as attending a concert or a large family gathering). Therefore, frequent testing gives a more detailed picture of a person’s infection status.

The optimal testing frequency will vary with each organization and situation. A business with frontline, essential workers that work in close proximity with hundreds of people each day will likely require a different testing frequency than a small organization that can have most individuals work from home. Factors such as overall density of the workplace/location, ventilation, and how often masks are worn can impact the best frequency of testing.

There are online tools available to help determine the best testing frequency for you. One such tool, the When To Test calculator, is funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health, through the NIH RADx Initiative. This tool allows a user to input a variety of details on their organization to help determine how frequently testing should be performed. Testing guidelines at the national, state, and local levels should also be considered.

Determining the best testing frequency can be complicated, but, thankfully, many testing services will calculate this for each user. End-to-end testing services will usually offer to help design a testing plan, including testing frequency, that is tailored to each unique situation. This is one of several reasons that end-to-end services can help organizations, businesses, and schools make a testing plan that works for them.


Helpful Resources

When To Test: An online calculator from the NIH to help determine the right testing frequency for you.

Guidance on Broad-Based Testing (CDC): Detailed guidance on how to plan for testing in a congregate setting.

CDC Testing Guidance: A wide-ranging toolkit for guidance on testing in a variety of settings, including in communities, schools, and workplaces.

Guidance on Expanded Screening Testing (CDC): Guidance for screening for COVID-19 in asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals, including brief guidance on testing frequency.

Antigen Testing in Long Term Care Facilities (CDC): Detailed guidance on implementing antigen testing in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Variants Vaccines and What they Mean for COVID-19 Testing: an explainer on how the emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants and the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns have increased complexity for COVID-19 testing.

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