COVID-19 has caused millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide since late 2019. The disease, caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, is classified as a global pandemic.
Testing for the coronavirus continues to expand throughout the United States. In March, UPMC developed a coronavirus test and has expanded its use at testing sites throughout Pennsylvania.
Find out more about what the coronavirus test entails.
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What Are the Tests for COVID-19?
There are two main COVID-19 tests: a viral test and an antibody test.
COVID-19 viral test
There are two types of viral tests, known as diagnostic tests. UPMC uses the molecular test, which checks for the coronavirus’ genetic material. The antigen test detects specific proteins on the virus’ surface.
At UPMC, the viral test for the coronavirus involves a “nasopharyngeal” swab. The health care worker inserts a thin device into the nasal cavity to collect a sample from the back of the nose and throat. Samples can be collected from other sites, such as the throat or saliva, but UPMC uses the nasopharyngeal swabs.
The collected samples are then sent to a laboratory to be checked for coronavirus. Most results are available within 2 to 4 days.
COVID-19 antibody test
An antibody test checks for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in your blood.
The antibody test may tell if you had already been infected. However, COVID-19 antibody testing is not 100% accurate. It can take 1 to 3 weeks post-infection for antibodies to form, so an antibody test should not be used to diagnose a current infection.
It is not yet known whether having COVID-19 antibodies in your blood will prevent you from being infected again.
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Who Is Eligible for a COVID-19 Test?
At UPMC, we are testing individuals who are sick with suspected COVID-19. In select circumstances, asymptomatic patients are screened to see if they are carrying the virus.
To get tested at one of UPMC’s collection centers, patients need a referral from a doctor or an appointment. Walk-in testing is not currently available.
UPMC offers asymptomatic screening to patients before some in-hospital procedures. Ask your doctor or surgeon if pre-screening is offered or required for your procedure.
If you have a known exposure to someone with confirmed COVID-19, you may be able to request a test at a Pennsylvania location close to you.
Where Can I Get Tested for COVID-19?
UPMC offers testing at several specimen collection sites throughout Pennsylvania. You will need a referral from a doctor or an appointment at the collection center to get tested. UPMC does not offer walk-in testing.
Have a referral from your doctor? Schedule your appointment online now at UPMC Urgent Care.
What Should I Do After Getting Tested for COVID-19?
At UPMC, we treat symptomatic patients as “presumed positive” for COVID-19 until we receive their test results. While you wait for results, stay at home and avoid close contact with others.
If you were tested through UPMC and your doctor referred you for the test, he or she will call you with the results — or check for results on your MyUPMC account. If you do not have a UPMC doctor, the central COVID-19 team will contact you. You also can check with your primary care doctor.
If you test positive for COVID-19, your doctor will give you care instructions.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home and avoid close contact with others until talking to your doctor. If at any time you experience life-threatening symptoms — such as high fever or difficulty breathing — go to the emergency department, but call ahead if possible.
For more information on UPMC’s COVID-19 testing procedures, visit UPMC.com/COVID19.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations in central and western Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.