COVID-19: Your guide to testing

Everywhere you turn, there is coverage and conversation about COVID-19. Although it’s important to share as much information as possible about the virus and its effect on the world, it can be difficult to cut through the noise to find the facts. 

How to get tested for Covid-19
How to get tested for Covid-19 (Image courtesy of the PA Department of Health)

 

There is a lot of uncertainty and confusion around the COVID-19 testing process. Although it is likely to change over the coming weeks, we’re answering three of the most frequently asked questions.

How do I know if I should get tested?

We know that people can test positive for COVID-19 without showing symptoms. And even if you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, that doesn’t guarantee you will be tested. The Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends that anyone with mild symptoms stay home. If you are showing severe symptoms—a fever over 100 degrees, shortness of breath and a cough—call your health care provider or the health department: 1-877-PA-HEALTH.

Ultimately, the decision will come down to your health care provider. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “If you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or you are a resident in a community where there is ongoing spread of COVID-19 and develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure. They will decide whether you need to be tested.”

Where do I go to get tested?

Testing locations and processes vary from state to state. If your health care provider advises you to get tested, he or she will instruct you on next steps. If you are a Pennsylvania resident, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website for more information.

How does COVID-19 testing work?

Testing processes are rapidly changing as new advancements are made. To keep up with demand, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently relaxed its protocols to “achieve more rapid testing capacity in the U.S.” through a combination of public health, commercial, and academic labs. 

There are a handful of COVID-19 test kits on the market and in development, and the majority of them involve swabbing the mouth or nose, a relatively quick and painless process. After the sample is collected, it is sent to a lab for testing. As more advanced tests are approved and brought to market, result turnaround time is expected to decrease from days to hours.

What to do next

COVID-19 testing is changing by the minute. If you believe you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or are considered high risk, call your health care provider and continue to practice self-distancing

Learn more about COVID-19 updates, guidelines, and test advancements at cdc.gov, fda.gov and health.pa.gov.