Where to find public COVID-19 tests in Columbus, central Ohio

As Ohio and other states continue to see a record number of new coronavirus cases due to the latest variant, omicron, testing remains in high demand.

And as supply begins to catch up with demand following a surge in vacations, uncertainty remains as to where to find the tests, whether in pharmacies, clinics or other locations. Social media calls asking for rapid home tests are commonplace.

This might not come as a surprise, given that the United States surpassed the one million new coronavirus case for the first time on January 3. , according to USA Today.

While President Joe Biden has set a goal of providing Americans with 500 million free home tests as soon as possible, many are struggling in their search for a COVID-19 test. For area residents in this situation, here are some resources around Greater Columbus to get you started.

Where did you find the tests? Share what you know in the comments to this story

Ohio Department of Health

The Ohio Department of Health is compiling a directory of tests and community health centers that provide COVID-19 testing. There are nearly 200 locations listed in Franklin County alone, and these include community clinics, libraries, pharmacies, and emergency care centers.

The directory can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/dashboards/other-resources/testing-ch-centers.

Columbus Public Health

The department directs people to their public libraries or recreation centers, where tests are distributed free of charge when they are in stock. For those who need paperwork for a job or travel, the department directs people to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center for PCR, or molecular tests, which require an appointment. For more information, visit wexnermedical.osu.edu/features/coronavirus/patient-care/covid-19-testing.

Public library

Most branch libraries in and around Columbus have distributed antigen tests, requiring a nasal swab and providing results within minutes. Authorities recommend calling first to make sure free tests are available and scheduling a time for curbside pickup.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library call center (614-645-2275) said on Thursday that tests were sold out and would not be restocked until at least next week. But in early January 7, several branches, including Parsons, reported new supplies.

A red banner will appear above all pages of the library’s website when test kits run out in all 23 locations. Live chat on the website can also be used to find availability.

Columbus Parks and Recreation

Like libraries, every community center received free tests last month. But supplies have run out. A spokeswoman for the department (614-645-3300) said officials were “considering” ways to find new shipments.


Most chains – such as CVS and Walgreens – require appointments for testing, whether PCR or rapid. Call or check online for details. There have been reports of pharmacies scheduling appointments for days or weeks, and even these can fill up quickly.

An ad on CVS’s website says appointments are limited and “rapid test results are always available within hours, but lab test results take 1-3 days.”

Hospitals and emergency care

Most locations only provide testing for patients who have been referred by telehealth or doctor visits. And emergency rooms turn people away unless they have symptoms or other critical needs.

What types of tests are available?

There are two main types of COVID-19 diagnostic tests to show if you have an active coronavirus infection, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Molecular tests, such as PCR tests, detect the genetic material of the virus. Antigen tests detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus.

Columbus area COVID numbers: Franklin County COVID cases jump 20% in one week

Molecular tests can give results the same day, but the times for analyzing the test and publishing the results are likely to be longer and can take up to a week. The antigen test takes an hour or less.

However, molecular testing is usually very accurate and usually does not need to be repeated, while antigen testing cannot definitively rule out active coronavirus infection and are more likely to miss active coronavirus infection. Negative results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed by molecular testing.



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