COVID PCR Testing Frequently Asked Questions
If you feel like you are having a medical emergency, please call 9-1-1.
If you are experiencing severe trouble breathing; continuous pain or pressure in your chest; feeling confused; having difficulty waking up or staying awake; pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds; or any other emergency signs or symptoms, please seek immediate medical care.
What is a COVID-19 PCR test?
PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests check for genetic material (viral RNA) produced by the virus. This determines if an individual is actively infected with COVID-19 and can spread it to others.
Who should get a COVID-19 PCR test?
You should get tested if:
- You have
symptoms of COVID-19(such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath)
- You don’t have symptoms but may have been exposed to COVID-19
- You don’t have symptoms and haven’t been recently exposed but live or work in a place where people reside, meet, or gather in close proximity (this can include healthcare settings, homeless shelters, assisted living facilities, group homes, prisons, detention centers, schools, and workplaces).
- Your employer, public health department, contact investigator, or healthcare provider has identified you as someone who should get tested.
If you believe you have symptoms of COVID-19 or that you have been exposed to the virus, you should consult your place of work for specific guidance about whether to stay home or continue working.
Who should not get a COVID-19 PCR test?
You should not get tested if you:
- Currently have severe symptoms that limit your daily activities. Seek medical attention right away if this is the case.
- Tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 3 months. Speak with your healthcare provider prior to getting tested.
What will my COVID-19 PCR test results tell me?
Your test results will confirm whether or not you are currently infected with COVID-19. If your results are positive, it is important to isolate immediately and continue to monitor your symptoms. If your results are negative, it means the virus was not present in the sample you provided.
After receiving your results, you will have an opportunity to speak with a licensed healthcare provider who can answer any questions you may have about your test results and help determine next steps in care.
Are there any limitations to COVID-19 PCR tests?
A PCR test may not detect the virus in early stages of infection. In addition, a PCR test may not detect the virus if there was a problem with your sample, such as when the sample is not collected as directed. There is also the possibility of a false negative (a negative result that is incorrect) if you’ve had recent exposure to the virus along with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
How is a COVID-19 PCR test performed?
This test is conducted either by nasal swab or saliva collection. The nasal swab test requires insertion of a swab into your nose and the back of your throat. The saliva test requires providing a sample of your spit into a collection tube.
How do I prepare for the test?
You do not need to do anything to prepare for the test. You do not need to fast or stop taking any medications before testing. Further instructions will be provided to you at the lab or in your test kit.
Where can I get more information?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak PWNHealth: COVID-19 FAQs
Please note: The antibody tests and the molecular tests (together referred to as “tests”) have not been cleared or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).