What Does an Inconclusive COVID Test Result Mean?

With COVID showing few signs of ending, regular testing has become a part of our lives. Whether we test at home, at a pharmacy, or at a drive-thru facility, knowing our viral status is proving to be one of the most effective ways to keep our loved ones safe. 


However, in some cases, people receive false-negative or even inconclusive test results. Though unlikely to occur, these types of results are important to understand, as they demonstrate that nothing is 100% certain. 


To better manage your health, you’ll want to be aware of how these tests work and what their results mean. 

Breaking Down COVID-19 Testing 

The goal of any diagnostic COVID test is to determine whether or not a person is infected with COVID-19. With that said, each type of test assesses infection differently. The most widely accepted test forms include:


  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests: Also known as RNA or molecular tests, PCR tests require a swab from your nose, and they look for genetic material of the virus itself. Usually, these tests take a day or two for results to show.
  • Antigen tests: Antigen tests detect if your mucus contains viral antigens or proteins found on the surface of the virus. These tests yield rapid results, often in a matter of minutes.


With both tests, false-positive results are highly rare; however, false negatives can occur, and they’re most common with antigen tests.

At-Home Testing

Because PCR tests require a lab in order to furnish results, the most widely used at-home tests are antigen tests. While all of these tests vary slightly in terms of their accuracy, on the whole, they’ll give you a pretty reliable idea of your COVID-19 status.


If you buy a test online or from a pharmacy, you’ll want to be sure it appears on the FDA’s list of approved COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

Test Results Explained

Upon completing a COVID-19 test, you’ll receive one of three results. Here’s what each of them means. 


Depending on the type of test you used, a positive result indicates that either SARS-CoV-2 or antigens were detected in your mucus sample.

Negative (Not Detected)

A negative result means that neither viral genetic material nor antigens were detected in your sample. 


Though rare, both PCR and antigen tests may come back inconclusive. Usually, this means that either your mucus sample was insufficient to test or that you have a new infection. 

What to Do With An Inconclusive Result

An inconclusive result could indicate low amounts of the virus in your system. That’s why–though it can certainly be frustrating to receive an inconclusive result, particularly if you had imminent travel plans–when an inconclusive result occurs, you should continue to self-isolate until you can test again. This includes refraining from going to work. 

Have Proof

Once you’ve re-tested and obtained a negative result, you can assume it’s safe to resume your normal daily activities, including work. And with new protocols emerging in many workplaces, it’s important to always have proof of your health status readily available.


A Digital Health Wallet

With ConfirmD, an app and platform designed by health experts, you can easily upload both your vaccination records and COVID-19 test results. By providing a unique QR code, ConfirmD enables you to safely and securely share your COVID-19 health data with workplaces, restaurants, airlines, etc. The app is also HIPPA compliant to protect all critical health information and allows you to opt out at any time. 


The best practices for COVID-19 safety continue to evolve, and the surest way to protect yourself and others is to get regular tests. With ConfirmD, you can ensure that your test results have verified proof.

Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.