Testing for COVID-19

There is significant interest in testing for COVID-19 by the public and health care providers. Two types of tests are available: the nasal swab test, which detects the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the nasal passages, and the blood test, which measures for the presence of antibodies.

For patients who currently have symptoms that could be due to COVID-19, the nasal swab test is needed for diagnosis. Antibodies are proteins found in the blood that are produced as someone fights off a virus or bacteria. The presence of COVID-19 antibodies suggests that someone has been exposed to or been sick with the virus. If a patient currently has symptoms that could be due to COVID-19, it is likely too early for them to have antibodies to COVID-19. They should have a nasal swab and if interested, antibody testing should be done 2 weeks after they first had symptoms.

Importantly, we do not know if the presence of antibodies means that someone has some immunity to the virus, or if they might be less susceptible to contracting or spreading COVID-19 in the future. People should not change their behavior in any way should they have antibodies. They should continue to follow physical distancing, wash their hands frequently, and stay home if they develop symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of whether they have antibodies to COVID-19 or a negative nasal swab test.

The cost for the COVID-19 antibody test is $100 and $85 for the PCR (nasal swab) test to determine the presence of the virus.

To schedule a COVID-19 test, please log in to My Health Connection.
New users: after creating an account, select “Schedule COVID-19 Testing”
from the Quick Links panel or Appointments menu.

Tests for COVID-19 infection and COVID-19 antibodies
are now available

UCHealth offers two types of COVID-19 tests:

  • A PCR (nasal swab) test can determine if someone currently has a COVID-19 infection.
  • A serology antibody test (blood draw) can determine if someone was exposed to COVID-19 and now has antibodies.

Patients may choose either or both tests. Testing is voluntary.

Note that there is insufficient evidence at this time to determine what the presence of COVID-19 antibodies may mean in terms of immunity, or the risk for reinfection with COVID-19. More research is needed before we know whether the presence of antibodies means someone has some immunity, or how long that possible immunity may last.

Results from UCHealth’s antibody testing may be used as part of research to determine how many Coloradans may have been exposed to the new coronavirus.

Convenient and prompt

A nasal swab is as fast and easy as it sounds. Antibody testing requires a simple blood draw to get a sample.

Your results

If you don’t already have one, creating a My Health Connection account is a convenient way to see your results quickly.

For the best experience, download and access through the UCHealth app today.

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Tests to identify COVID-19 antibodies differ from the “nasal swab” tests you see long lines of drivers lining up to get. Nasal swab tests look for the presence of the novel coronavirus to diagnose active COVID-19 infections. Antibody tests, though, look for specific blood proteins called antibodies which our bodies produce to fight infections. Most antibody tests use a blood draw to fill a small vial.

Because COVID-19 is so new, scientists don’t know if persons who have antibodies in their blood are immune to getting the disease, or how long any immunity will last.

But it’s important that the antibody tests be accurate. Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged that many antibody tests currently available in the U.S. are being marketed with false or unsubstantiated claims.

The antibody tests that UCHealth provides have been evaluated by the FDA and meet the agency’s requirements for accuracy and specificity. These are among the few antibody tests authorized by the FDA.

doctor explaining virtual visit

Please check your individual policy to learn if antibody testing is covered.

For most insurance plans, we will attempt to bill your insurance. You may be responsible for your co-pay or deductible amount. However, if your health plan denies this charge you will receive a bill for the service.

COVID-19 testing: questions and answers

Which tests can I get through UCHealth?

UCHealth is offering two types of COVID-19 testing. All testing is voluntary.

One type of test, called a PCR test, can tell you if you have COVID-19 now. This test requires a nose swab.

UCHealth is also offering an antibody test. This test can tell you if you’ve been exposed or if you were sick with COVID-19 in the past. This test requires a blood draw.

What is the difference between these two tests?

A nose-swab PCR test for COVID-19 looks for the presence of the virus in someone who is sick right now or has recently gotten better.

An antibody test can see if someone has been exposed to COVID-19 and now has antibodies to the illness.

What are antibodies?

When we get infections, our bodies create proteins to fight infections. These are called antibodies.

How long does it take for a person to create antibodies?

It can take days or weeks for a person to develop antibodies.

How long do antibodies to COVID-19 last?

Researchers don’t know yet how long antibodies to COVID-19 last or whether they protect people from getting sick in the future.

Why should I get the COVID-19 test?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 now, a nose-swab test can determine if you have COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. These signs include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Exhaustion
  • Body aches
  • Sudden loss of taste or smell

Also, some people who are not sick might need to get a COVID-19 test before returning to work.

Why should I get an antibody test?

An antibody test can tell you if you have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. If you test positive and you have fully recovered from COVID-19, you might be able to donate what’s known as convalescent plasma to patients who are currently sick with COVID-19.

Also, results from antibody tests might help medical experts understand how widely the new coronavirus has spread in our communities.

But, it’s important to know that a positive test result to an antibody test does not mean you are safe (immune) from getting COVID-19 in the future. Researchers are still working to understand how protective these antibodies to COVID-19 will be.

If I get a positive test result from an antibody test, what does that mean?

Since COVID-19 is such a new illness, medical experts are still learning how COVID-19 antibodies work. If your test shows that you have antibodies (a positive result), that means that it’s likely you have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

But, a positive result does not mean you are immune or less likely to get COVID-19 in the future.

Even if your results from an antibody test are positive, you should still follow social distancing guidelines. These include:

  • Stay at least six feet away from people outside of your household.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Wear a mask in public.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

What if I get a positive result from a COVID-19 test?

If you learn that you have COVID-19, you should isolate yourself at home right away and contact your health care provider. You may be able to heal at home. But, you should get medical help right away if you are having serious problems like trouble breathing.

I heard antibody tests can be inaccurate. Is that true?

Yes, there are many commercial antibody tests found at drug stores, labs and at medical facilities. Many of these tests are not accurate and have not been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

UCHealth is only offering tests that our medical experts have tested and verified. UCHealth COVID-19 tests are high-quality, accurate, FDA-authorized tests.

What if I get an antibody test elsewhere?

You should be very careful about the type of antibody test you get. If you get tested outside of UCHealth, ask questions about the type of test you will be getting. UCHealth experts found that antibody tests that only required a finger prick were not accurate. You will want an antibody test that:

  • Requires a full blood draw.
  • Has been tested and proven to be accurate.
  • Is approved by the FDA.

Why is an inaccurate antibody test concerning?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is what’s known as a coronavirus. These viruses are very common, and some are not dangerous. A different type of coronavirus causes the common cold. An inaccurate antibody test might find antibodies to other common coronaviruses. If you get results from an inaccurate antibody test, you might wrongly believe you have immunities to COVID-19.

Regardless or the results you get from any antibody test, do not assume that you are immune from COVID-19. This illness is serious and can cause people to become critically ill. Please take all precautions to protect yourself and others from getting and spreading the virus thatcauses COVID-19.

Where is UCHealth offering testing?

Currently UCHealth is offering testing at select facilities. We expect to expand our list of testing facilities by June 1.

How can I make an appointment to get a COVID-19 test, an antibody test or both?

Currently test scheduling is done via My Health Connection, UCHealth’s free, convenient patient portal.

Will my health insurance cover testing?

Many insurance providers will cover COVID-19 and antibody testing, but you should check on the details for your insurance plan. If you have not met the yearly deductible for your plan, you could be charged. And, for antibody testing, it’s also possible that the cost of the test itself may be covered, but that you will be charged for the blood draw.

If I don’t have health insurance, can I still get tested?

Yes, you can pay out of pocket for testing. If you pay yourself, a nose swab to test for COVID-19 will cost $85 and an antibody test will cost $100.

Do I need to be a current UCHealth patient to get tested?

No. You are welcome to get tested even if you are not a current UCHealth patient. You will need to sign up for a My Health Connection account to schedule a test and get your results.

How long will it take to get my results back?

You will get your results within a few days. You might get your results sooner depending on where you get tested.

Will my test results be used for research?

Your test results are private. But researchers may use anonymous testing data to find how widely COVID-19 has spread throughout the community and to assist public health experts and government leaders as they try minimize the spread of COVID-19.

How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?

  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Stay at least six feet away from people in public.
  • Stay home if you are sick.

If you need medical advice, please contact your provider.