Facts about COVID-19 testing


To get information that’s specific to your area, select your state or region below.  

Testing plays a major role in fighting COVID-19 — for your health, the health of our communities, and to help safely reopen businesses, schools, and more. While testing supplies across the nation have been limited, we expect our testing to continue to expand in the coming weeks. Information about tests is changing often, so we’ll update the answers below frequently to help you understand what tests are available. 

There are 2 different kinds of clinical tests available for COVID-19. One shows if you’re currently infected with a virus (diagnostic testing) and the other helps you understand if you’ve been infected in the recent past with a virus (antibody testing). 

  • Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 tells you if you’re infected right now. It’s done by collecting fluid from your nose, throat, or lungs. If the test shows you’re infected, you should isolate to help prevent spread. Testing also helps public health agencies monitor the spread of the disease. 
  • Antibody testing checks for antibodies in your blood from a prior infection. A positive test may not indicate prior exposure to COVID-19, and it doesn’t mean a person is protected from COVID-19 in the future.  


On this page:


Diagnostic testing for current COVID-19 infection 

We recommend getting a diagnostic test if you currently have symptoms of COVID-19. If the test shows you’re infected, you can isolate to help prevent spread. Testing also helps public health agencies monitor the spread of the disease. 

We’re testing all symptomatic members in Colorado. 

To receive a diagnostic test for COVID-19, call our appointment and advice line. If you meet testing guidelines, we’ll give you instructions on what to do next.

It’s important to self-isolate as much as possible while you wait for your test results to avoid getting others sick. If you test positive, you should isolate for 10 days, or until your symptoms are improving and you haven’t had a fever for 72 hours — whichever is longer. 

Testing and diagnosis at Kaiser Permanente are available at no cost to members.

 

Yes, you can get tested through an outside lab. Some cities and counties are testing their residents — even if they don’t have symptoms. Check your local public health department’s website to see what options are available in your area. 

If you decide to get tested at an outside lab, you’ll need to pay for your test, but you can file a claim form for reimbursement. Please note that Kaiser Permanente will cover the cost of testing only if it was conducted by a licensed provider. Here’s how to file a claim:

  1. Go to kp.org/coverageandcosts.
  2. Below “Helpful resources,” click “Submit a claim.” 
  3. Below “Claim forms,” click the PDF to download. (If you’re redirected to our Claim Services website, select “Documents and Forms” from the Resources menu and then download the medical claim form.)
  4. Fill out the form and then mail it to the address listed on the form. 

Remember that if you test positive outside of Kaiser Permanente, your results aren’t shared with your doctor’s office. Email a scanned copy of your test results to your Kaiser Permanente doctor’s office so we can update your medical record. The report should include your name and at least one other personal identifier, like your date of birth. Go to kp.org and create a new message to your doctor’s office using the subject line, “COV19 outside lab report.” Click on the “Attach an image” link at the bottom of the message to add your scanned report.

Please follow the instructions you get with your test result about isolation and physical distancing. If you need care guidance, call our 24/7 advice line.

There are a few ways to test for a current COVID-19 viral infection: nasal swab, throat swab, and sputum tests.

  • Nasal swab — A doctor or nurse inserts a 6-inch-long swab into one of your nostrils and rotates it for 15 seconds. Then they repeat with the other nostril. 
  • Throat swab — A caregiver will insert a swab through your mouth, touching the back of your throat before removing the sample. 
  • Sputum test — Sputum is a thick fluid, or mucus, that can collect in the lungs. For this test, you cough up sputum and spit it into a container. You might perform this test by yourself at a drive-up testing site. 

Your doctor will recommend the type of test you should receive.

We are working to further expand testing to meet the needs of our members.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve increased our ability to test by:

  • Making investments to increase supplies
  • Working with suppliers to make test kits 
  • Reducing turnaround time for most test results to 24 hours or less
  • Setting up drive-up testing sites in some areas
  • Using outside labs when needed to meet testing demand

In some areas, Kaiser Permanente is providing drive-up COVID-19 testing outside of designated Kaiser Permanente facilities. This form of testing is available only for patients who meet testing criteria and have been directed to a drive-up testing site by their care team. Remember that you need to schedule an appointment to get tested. If drive-up testing is available near you, we’ll give you instructions on where to go. 

Yes. We’re following public health guidelines for COVID-19 testing. By carefully selecting the locations, we can help ensure adequate physical distance to protect you and anyone passing by. All our drive-up care staff wears the appropriate personal protective equipment to care for people who may test positive for COVID-19.

If they’re not Kaiser Permanente members, we can’t test them. We recommend they contact their doctor or local public health department to learn what options are available. 

If you’ve been tested at Kaiser Permanente and your result is positive, you’ll get a phone call from us with your results and steps on how to get care. Your result will also be available in your medical record on kp.org. If your test is negative, you’ll be notified through kp.org.

The turnaround time for diagnostic testing varies from 1 to 3 days.

If you don’t receive your results within 3 days, please call our 24/7 advice line.

Continue to treat any symptoms at home and self-isolate until you are fever-free for 24 hours. If your condition worsens, call our appointment and advice line.


Antibody testing for past COVID-19 infection

Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections. An antibody blood (serology) test looks for antibodies in a person’s blood. Kaiser Permanente is participating in research to help us learn more about COVID-19 antibodies.

We’re not recommending antibody testing outside of research studies at this time, given their variability in accuracy, their risk of false positives and false negatives, and the limited information they can provide.

Current risks to antibody testing include:

  • A positive antibody test may not indicate prior exposure to COVID-19, and it doesn’t mean a person is protected from COVID-19 in the future. 
  • A negative antibody test can occur after an infection if the person hasn’t had an antibody response, particularly if the test is done too soon after infection.

Given this uncertainty, people who test positive for antibodies or have recovered from the virus should still take steps to protect themselves and others, like physical distancing, hand-washing, and wearing a mask in public. Decisions about returning to work shouldn’t be based on the antibody test result.

As testing becomes more reliable, it could help us:

  • Know if someone has been infected in the past
  • Determine where the virus has spread

Yes, you can. Kaiser Permanente will provide antibody testing upon request for members who:

  • Have no current COVID-19 symptoms (COVID-19 symptoms may include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, loss of smell or taste, vomiting, and diarrhea); and 
  • Had symptoms but don’t anymore. It needs to have been more than 14 days since the onset of COVID-19 symptoms or a positive PCR (diagnostic) test; and
  • Have not had an antibody test in the last 30 days (unless an additional antibody test has been approved by an infectious disease physician).

If you have symptoms now, you shouldn't get the antibody test. You should call our appointment and advice line.  

Please keep in mind that we aren’t recommending antibody testing outside of research studies at this time because the results are highly variable. You’ll need to complete a screening to get the lab order for an antibody test. Please sign in to kp.org to complete the screening, and then you can schedule a lab visit. 

If you’d like to receive an antibody test, sign in to kp.org and complete a screening. Then, you can schedule a lab visit for antibody testing.

You’ll have your blood drawn at a Kaiser Permanente lab. Please be aware that wait times in the lab may vary. You’ll get your results usually within 2 business days through kp.org.

Antibody testing at Kaiser Permanente is available at no cost to members. If you decide to get tested through an outside lab, you may need to pay for your test, but you can file a claim form for reimbursement (see instructions in the answer to “Can I get an antibody test outside of Kaiser Permanente?”). Please note that Kaiser Permanente will cover the cost of testing only if it was conducted by a licensed provider.

Yes, but please keep in mind that we aren’t recommending antibody testing outside of research studies at this time because the results are highly variable. Some cities and counties are offering antibody testing to their residents. Check your local public health department’s website to see what options are available in your area. You can also make an appointment at a Quest Diagnostics lab.

If you paid for an antibody test from a licensed provider after March 1, you can file a claim form for reimbursement:

  1. Go to kp.org/coverageandcosts
  2. Below “Helpful resources,” click “Submit a claim.” 
  3. Below “Claim forms,” click the PDF to download. (If you’re redirected to our Claim Services website, select “Documents and Forms” from the Resources menu and then download the medical claim form.)
  4. Fill out the form and then mail it to the address listed on the form. 

To share your test results with Kaiser Permanente, email a scanned copy to your doctor’s office. The report should include your name and at least one other personal identifier, like your date of birth. Go to kp.org and create a new message to your doctor’s office using the subject line, “COV19 Antibody Test outside lab report.” Click on the “Attach an image” link at the bottom of the message to add your scanned report. 

   


Help coping with COVID-19

Right now, it’s especially important to care for the whole you — mind, body, and spirit. We have many digital tools and articles to help your physical and mental health.