Updated 1/17/22

With the rise of the very contagious Omicron variant, case counts are rising and breakthrough cases are common. Take preventive measures to keep you and your community safe. Testing is one critical tool to utilize in this new surge of the pandemic. Learn more about COVID tests, your options for testing in Massachusetts, and steps to take if you test positive.

Types of COVID Tests

There’s 2 main types of COVID tests: 

  1. The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a molecular test and generally the most accurate testing option. It’s done at a testing site or physician’s office. Results are usually ready in 1-3 days. Testing is free. 
  2. The antigen test (often referred to as rapid test) analyzes for the protein in the virus. Efficacy is strongest when the person’s viral load is high. It can be purchased over the counter and completed at home. Results are ready in 15 minutes. It is worth noting that preliminary data shows that rapid tests may not be highly sensitive to the Omicron variant. They have high positive predictive value (if it’s positive you almost certainly have COVID) but poor negative predictive value (a negative result does not rule out the disease).  

For more information about these types of tests, check out this resource from Yale Medicine. You can search for a testing site near you using this resource

Cost of Tests

PCR tests are more expensive. Most insurance companies will cover COVID-19 testing administered for health reasons (like having symptoms or being a close contact of someone with COVID) at no additional cost to you. However, some insurance companies will not pay for elective testing (like testing after travel or before visiting family).  Please contact your insurance provider if you have questions about your coverage.

FREE testing is available at many community sites and all Massachusetts’ Stop the Spread sites. Contact the testing site if you are unsure if testing is free. 

Antigen test costs range from $12-25 per box, and two tests are provided in each box. However, the Biden-Harris Administration is requiring insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests, so people with private health coverage can get up to 8 tests per month for free starting January 15th, 2022. The new coverage requirement means that most consumers with private health coverage can go online or to a pharmacy or store, buy a test, and either get it paid for up front by their health plan, or get reimbursed for the cost by submitting a claim to their plan.

MassHealth offers coverage for up to eight such at home antigen self-test kits per member per month without prior authorization.

For people who do not have health insurance, the Biden-Harris Administration is purchasing 500 million over-the-counter at-home tests to be distributed for free to all Americans who want them, with the initial delivery starting in January 2022. Beginning on January 19th, Americans can request tests using the website: covidtests.gov.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is providing up to 50 million free, at-home tests to community health centers and Medicare-certified health clinics for distribution at no cost to patients and community members. The program is intended to ensure COVID-19 tests are made available to populations and settings in need of testing, especially populations at greatest risk from adverse outcomes related to COVID-19. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has more helpful information. Additional information about COVID services for uninsured individuals can be found here

Testing Locations

State-wide testing sites:

Health Centers, physician offices, and urgent care centers may also offer COVID testing. These sites likely will require a referral and for the patient to be symptomatic. Call your local center or doctor’s office to inquire. 

Major testing sites in western Massachusetts:

Berkshire County:
  • Free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing by appointment only at the following Berkshire Health Systems Testing Centers:

    • Pittsfield – 505 East St., St Luke’s Square, adjacent to BHS Urgent Care
      • Open seven days a week from 8:30 am to 4 pm
    • North Adams – 98 Church St., next to the North Adams Library
      • Open seven days a week from 8:30 am to 4 pm 
    • Great Barrington – 475 Main St., next to the Great Barrington Police Department
      • Open seven days a week from 7:30 am to 12 pm 
  • To make an appointment: call 855-262-5465. The hotline is typically open daily from 8 am to 4:30 pm. You can also make an appointment for a Stop the Spread test through the Berkshire Patient Portal. 
Franklin County:
  • FRCOG list of Testing sites 

  • Greenfield: Greenfield Community College, East Building (follow signs)

    • Regular Hours: Monday 8am-3pm, Tuesday 8am-2pm Wednesday 12pm-7pm, Thursday 12pm-6pm. Friday 8am-2pm. Saturday & Sunday 9am-2pm.
    • Free.  No appointment necessary but can schedule ahead of time. 
  • Greenfield: Baystate Franklin Medical Center, 33 Riddle St
    • Testing offered daily. 
    • Referral required and you must schedule an appointment to be tested by calling 413-795-TEST.
Hampden County:
  • Holyoke: CVS, 250 Whiting Farms Road (drive thru)
    • This is a community testing site. Tests are performed at no cost, and insurance, Social Security number, and driver’s license/state ID are not needed.
    • Appointments required. Schedule here
    • Ages 3+
    • Symptomatic and asymptomatic accepted.
  • Holyoke: Holyoke Mall drive thru testing, 50 Holyoke St (located near the Planet Fitness parking lot)
    • Mondays-Sundays, 9am-5pm
    • No appointment needed but helpful to schedule ahead of time. 
    • Free. No insurance necessary. 
    • Symptomatic and asymptomatic accepted.
  • Holyoke: Holyoke Community College drive thru testing, Parking lot N (near Bartley Center)
    • Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays: 7am-11am 
    • Tuesdays and Thursdays:  2pm-7pm
    • Free. No appointments – first come, first serve.
    • Symptomatic and asymptomatic accepted.
  • Holyoke: Holyoke War Memorial, 310 Appleton St walk up testing 
    • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: 2pm-6pm
    • Free. No appointments – first come, first serve.
    • Symptomatic and asymptomatic accepted.
  •  Holyoke: Holyoke Medical Center COVID Testing Area (Auxiliary Conference Room), 575 Beech Street
    • Monday - Friday: 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday: 7 a.m. - 11 a.m. 
    • All Ages
    • Cost: yes, some insurance may cover 
  • Westfield: Westwood building at 94 North Elm Street (drive up)
    • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10am-5pm
    • No appointment is needed, or you can pre-register to save time.  
    • Symptomatic and asymptomatic accepted.
  • Westfield, Springfield, Ware, Feeding Hills, and Longmeadow: Baystate Urgent Care
    • Referral required. More information here
  • Chicopee: River Mills Senior Center, 5 West Main St
    • Mondays-Wednesdays, 8am-12pm.
    • Complete this form and bring with you.
  • Holyoke, Chicopee, & Hampshire county - Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa list of testing sites
  • Springfield Testing Sites via Springfield Department of Health & Human Services
  • Springfield: Technology Park at 1 Federal Street
    • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Mondays-Fridays from 12-8pm
    • Saturdays and Sundays 10am-6pm
    • Register here.
Hampshire County:
  • Northampton: CVS, 366 King Street
    • This is a community testing site. Tests are performed at no cost, and insurance, Social Security number, and driver’s license/state ID are not needed.
    • Appointments required. Schedule here
    • Ages 3+
    • Symptomatic and asymptomatic accepted.
  • Amherst: UMASS Amherst Unobserved Testing take home kits
    • For asymptomatic individuals only.
    • Order kits ahead of time by following this link for directions on where, when, and how to obtain and submit an unobserved COVID-19 test for local community members.
    • Ages 2+
    • Free
  • Easthampton: Mill Side Park located at 2 Ferry St
    • Drive thru and walk up testing available starting 1/4/22
    • Tuesdays and Thursdays 8:30am-1:00pm
    • Saturdays 10:00am-2:00 pm
    • Appointments are encouraged & prioritized; walks-ins accepted
    • Free
    • All ages accepted
  • Cooley Dickinson Testing Centers are now located in its urgent care clinics. Appointment and referral required. Call to make an appointment: 888-554-4234.
    • Amherst and Southampton: Mon-Fri, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm; Sat-Sun 9:30 am – 4:30 pm
    • Northampton: Mon-Fri, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm, Sat-Sun 9:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Hampshire county, Holyoke, & Chicopee - Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa list of testing sites 

 

Did we miss any key testing sites? Please let us know

at-home Testing Options

At-Home PCR Testing:

The state of Massachusetts and Labcorp are teaming up to make convenient at-home kits available for MA residents. These kids are sent to your home for you to complete and mail back. 

  • Eligibility: 
    • Experiencing mild symptoms
    • Exposed to someone with COVID-19
    • Live or work in a congregate setting
    • Asked to get tested by a healthcare professional, contact investigator, or public health department.
  • Cost: free, paid for by insurance or government.
  • How to access: place your order for kits here.
UMASS Amherst Unobserved Testing Take Home PCR Kits:

Adults and children ages 2 and older without symptoms of COVID-19 are eligible for picking up an unobserved testing kit one of the locations in Amherst and returning to one of the drop boxes located on and off-campus. Follow this link for directions on where and how to obtain and submit an unobserved COVID-19 test.

Over the counter Rapid/Antigen Tests:

You can also purchase rapid antigen tests from many pharmacies (online or in store) including but not limited to CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Stop & Shop, and Big Y, as well as community health centers, and other designated locations in MA. Insurance companies and group health plans are required to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests, so each person with private health coverage can get 8 tests per month for free starting January 15th. MassHealth offers coverage for up to eight such at home antigen self-test kits per member per month without prior authorization.

The Biden Administration is purchasing 500 million over-the-counter at-home rapid tests to be distributed for free to all Americans who want them, with the initial delivery starting in January 2022. Beginning on January 19th, Americans can request tests using the website: covidtests.gov. The tests will take 7 to 12 days to arrive.

In addition, Massachusetts has ordered 26 million rapid tests to be dispersed to municipalities across the state with priority for schools and childcare settings. The Baker Administration has also set up a process for municipalities to order tests directly from manufacturers. Contact your local board of health to inquire more about this. 

what to do if exposed or test positive

If you are exposed:

  • For people who are unvaccinated or have not received your booster (when eligible): you should quarantine for 5 days, monitor for symptoms, get tested, and wear a mask for an additional 5 days. 

  • For people who are vaccinated and boosted (when eligible): it is recommended to wear a mask for 10 days and get tested 3-5 days after exposure, but you do not need to quarantine.

If you test positive, follow the guidance from the MA Department of Public Health and CDC so you don't spread the virus.

  • Notify your doctor.
  • Isolate at home for 5 days and refrain from leaving unless there's an emergency. Wear a mask if you come into contact with others in your home.
  • Wear a mask for an additional 5 days post-isolation. 
  • Social distance from others.
  • Wear a mask if you come into contact with other people in your home.
  • Take care of yourself - get lots of rest and drink lots of water.
  • Monitor your symptoms.
  • Wash your hands and wipe down surfaces.
  • Notify anyone who you might have come into contact with 3 days prior.

Seek emergency care if you have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone