Two years into COVID-19, news about variants, mask usage, vaccines and testing options still abounds. Because the information has changed over time, and we often find ourselves unsure of the who, what, when, why and how of it all, the PRT gathered the latest facts about COVID-19 testing in our community. 

Using sources such as the Centers for Disease Control, the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Eladio Pereira of the Mariposa Clinic, and information from the local pharmacy websites, here is what we’ve learned: 

When should I get tested? 

The following people should be tested for COVID-19: 

• Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, whether or not you have been vaccinated. If your result is positive, let the County Health Department or Mariposa Clinic know. They will advise you further. 

• Non-vaccinated people who have had close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes) with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19. 

• Anyone who is advised to do so by their healthcare provider or health department. 

• Vaccinated people who have been exposed to COVID-19 and plan to spend time with an unvaccinated person (e.g. elderly or a child under the age of five) may want to be tested. Both the Delta and Omicron variants can cause breakthrough infections and vaccinated people can still carry the virus and pass it on to others. 

If a test is warranted due to exposure or symptoms, you should self-quarantine pending test results, and follow the advice of your healthcare provider or a public health professional. 

How do I choose between PCR testing and rapid Antigen testing? How long does it take to get the results? 

•The “polymerase chain reaction” (PCR) test searches for the virus’s RNA in your sample. The test is done with a nasal or throat swab. These tests must be sent to a laboratory and it can take between 24 hours and several days to a week to receive the results. 

• With an antigen test, a nasal swab is used to detect certain proteins on the surface of the virus. These tests can give results in as little as 15 minutes, and usually within 24 hours. Studies indicate that they’re not as sensitive as the PCR test; therefore there is a greater chance of missing an infection. These “false-negative” results are more common if somebody gets tested too soon after exposure, or 5 days or more after exposure. At that point, the amount of antigen is typically low and could go undetected even though the patient has or had COVID-19. 

Where can I take or buy a test? 

Many experts recommend that if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, seek testing at a facility. Healthcare professionals can best determine what type of test you should take, and what to do when you learn the results. 

•The Santa Cruz County Health Department is offering free COVID-19 testing at 275 Rio Rico Drive in Rio Rico. Testing is conducted Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call for an appointment: 520-604-9321. 

• Mariposa Community Health Center offers testing. The tests can be done at their Nogales, Patagonia, Tubac and Rio Rico Clinics. The Clinics are open Monday through Friday, with Saturday hours in Nogales. Call for up-to-date information: 520-281-1550. 

•Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales offers testing through its emergency department. 

Nogales/Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce, 123 Kino Park Pl. Nogales offers PCR and rapid testing and antibody testing. Call or book online for an appointment. 

• Home tests may be purchased online or at some local retailers such as Walmart, Walgreens and other pharmacies. The availability of tests in stores has been sporadic. If you choose to take a home antigen test, and find out that you have COVID-19, the Health Department may request a confirming PCR test. 

Report your result to the Health Department at 520-375-7900, or Mariposa Clinic at 520-281-1550. 

Are these tests free or is there a cost? 

Most testing is offered at no cost. Rapid tests for travel purposes may be an exception. 

What if I’m required to present a negative test to travel? 

Sometimes authorities require that a test be taken within 24 – 72 hours of departure. Once you know the requirements, including the type of test, there are several locations to receive that rapid testing. 

• The Tucson International Airport has testing on-site, near baggage claim, so you don’t have to pass security to be tested. Their website shows the rapid PCR test at no charge, antigen testing at a cost of $79. 

• Several other laboratories (ARCLabs, Carbon and Drip Hydration) in the Tucson area advertise rapid PCR tests, with costs between $130 and $249. 

•You may also get a rapid PCR test at the Mariposa Clinic. 

When seeking to get tested, check beforehand to make sure the information you have is current. When asked about how to keep up with the changing information, Dr. Pereira said, “What I tell you today may not be true tomorrow. One thing we do know is that COVID is still very much with us and will be for a while.” Dr. Pereira emphasized that he hopes everyone receives the COVID-19 booster, as it it appears to help resistance to the very contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19.

New CDC Guidelines


Everyone, regardless of vaccination status: 

• Stay home for 5 days. 

• If you have symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house. 

• Continue to wear your mask around others for 5 additional days. 

• If you have a fever, continue to stay home until fever resolves. 


If you have had a booster shot OR completted the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the past 6 months OR Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months: 

• Wear a mask around others for 10 days. 

• Test on day 5, if possible. 

• If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home. 

If you completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 3 months ago and have not had a booster shot OR Completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and have not had a booster shot OR are unvaccinated: 

• Stay home for 5 days. After that, contine to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days. 

• If you can’t quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days. 

• Test on day 5, if possible. 

• If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.