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:
- Difficulty breathing
- 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 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?
UCHealth is offering testing at more than 40 locations in metro Denver, northern Colorado, southern Colorado and Steamboat Springs. These include many UCHealth hospitals and urgent care locations, some of which provide drive-thru testing. To find a location near you and available days/hours for an appointment, please schedule through My Health Connection.
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?
Test results will be uploaded to the individual’s My Health Connection as soon as possible, but may take longer than expected due to high demand.
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.