COVID-19 Testing Frequently Asked Questions (as of January 27, 2021)
These FAQs were created to help you decide what type of test is best for you and where to get the test performed.
What is the difference between a “COVID-19 virus test” and a “COVID-19 antibody test”?
- The virus test tells you if you are currently infected with COVID-19.
- The antibody test tells you if you have had the infection in the past and currently have antibodies that may protect you from re-infection. It can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies. Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 might provide protection from getting infected with the virus again. If it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies might provide or how long this protection might last.
What are the types of virus tests?
- “Rapid” (antigen) tests: This test provides results at the testing site, usually within an hour. This test is checking to see if viral antigen (a piece of the virus’s outer coat or surface) is present on the nose or throat specimen. A positive test result from this test is highly accurate. But a negative test result is less accurate, which means this test might miss an infection that the molecular test identifies. So, if you have symptoms but your results from this test are negative, you should talk to your doctor about further testing.
- Molecular tests: Also called the RT-PCR test or LAMP test, this test is highly accurate but might take up to a week to obtain the test result. This test checks for the presence of virus’s genetic material (RNA). Samples may be taken from the nose, throat or saliva.
- Home test: On November 17, 2020, the FDA announced that for the first time, a home molecular COVID-19 test has been granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) and in December approved the test for public use. See below.
How is the virus test sample obtained?
- Samples, also called specimens, can be obtained from the upper sinuses or nasal cavity (“deep nasopharyngeal”), back of the throat (“oropharyngeal”), saliva or sputum (“mucus” or “phlegm”).
- Healthcare providers have concluded that a sample from the upper sinuses or nasal cavity (nasopharyngeal) provides the best specimen for COVID-19 testing and is less likely to return a false result. This procedure may be uncomfortable but is very quick.
- While throat swab testing is more comfortable than the nasal test, it may result in a false negative finding: even though the test is negative you do have COVID-19. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms and you receive negative test results, you need further testing.
- Saliva tests are a new COVID-19 PCR molecular test option, but not yet available in Portsmouth. These tests require you to spit into a sterile container which is sent for testing. The newest saliva test, SalivaDirect, has a high level of accuracy, but can still produce false-negative results. If you have COVID-19 symptoms and you receive negative results, you need further testing.
Should I get a COVID-19 test?
If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, believe you may have been exposed, or are at “high risk,” you should contact your healthcare provider and ask to be tested. Or you can call or go online, without a doctor’s order, to schedule a test at any of the local testing centers (see below). You can also order a home test, follow the collection directions, and send the sample back for testing results.
- COVID-19 symptoms include:
- fever over 100.4°F with or without chills
- cough, shortness of breath or difficulty with breathing
- sore throat
- congestion with or without a runny nose
- fatigue or a sense of low energy
- muscle and body aches
- recent loss of sense of smell or taste
- The following are considered “high risk”:
- those over the age of 60 years
- anyone with chronic kidney disease
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- asthma or any lung disease
- sickle cell disease
- neurologic (brain/spinal cord) conditions
- immune deficiency for any reason (organ transplant, cancer, immune disease)
As of December 2020, the recommendations for testing have been revised in response to increased testing demand and limited testing capacity. If you have been exposed to a person with Covid-19 it is recommended that you schedule a PCR test on/about the 5th day after exposure if you are not experiencing symptoms. This is the timeframe when it is most likely the test will confirm whether or not you are infected. If you develop symptoms, you can either schedule a PCR test or an antigen test (provided you’ve had symptoms for no more than 5 days).
Where can I go in Portsmouth to get a test?
All testing sites require preregistration or an appointment made by phone or online as listed below. All of these testing locations offer Molecular (PCR) testing.
This site uses the drug store’s drive-thru window where you receive instructions from the pharmacist on taking your own sample from your nose using a swab. Test results take 2-7 days and you will receive a phone call if your test is positive.
Call: (833) 263-0131
PCR test: Either a nasal swab and throat swab are collected by a medical person once you arrive at Convenient MD. The swab is then sent to the lab and results come back in 3-7 days.You will receive a phone call if your test is positive for the virus.>Antigen test: Also known as a rapid test, you will need a referral from your health care provider to get the antigen test. This test is only available to those that have been experiencing symptoms for 5 days or less. Results are given in person; the wait time is 15 minutes.
When you arrive for your appointment, a medical aide will take a nasal swab. This site also offers antibody testing.
Call: (603) 294-1231
When you arrive for your appointment, a medical aide will take a deep nasal swab
How much does the test cost and will my insurance cover the cost?
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures that COVID-19 testing is free to anyone in the U.S., including the uninsured.
- Most health insurance plans cover testing for COVID-19 without a copay, coinsurance, or deductible.
- If you do not have insurance or have a health insurance plan that does not fully cover the cost of testing you may be eligible for the New Hampshire Medicaid Limited COVID-19 Testing Benefit and can apply for that coverage online through NH EASY and click on “COVID-19 Testing.”
What about the in-home test kits?
In-home test kits can be purchased or ordered online by searching for Covid-19 home tests. There are two types of in-home tests: 1) in-home all-in-one tests that allow you to collect and test the sample at home, and 2) in-home tests where you collect the sample and send the sample to a laboratory in the mail.
As of December 2020, over- the-counter home diagnostic tests were approved for home testing. The kits should be available for purchase in January 2021. FDA review of these home tests has found them to be reliable, and they do not require a prescription. Home diagnostic tests allow you to collect the specimen and test at home for the presence of the virus – in essence becoming an all-in-one immediate test. At-home instructions explain how to collect a nasal swab and then use the supplied test strip and solution to check for the presence of the viral antigen. The tests are recommended for use on persons aged 2 years or older whether or not the person is showing any signs of COVID-19 infection.They require access to a smart phone to send and receive the test results (estimated to be available in about 20 minutes. The tests are expected to be sold at local drug stores when available. If your in-home test results are positive, it is important to limit your exposure to other people and continue to monitor your symptoms.
If your results are negative, the virus was not present in the sample you provided. However, it is important to note that the virus may not be detected by the test in early stages of infection or if the sample is not collected/tested as directed. If you test negative and experience Covid-19 like symptoms you should follow up with your health care provider as there is a small chance of a false negative test [meaning you have Covid-19 but the test came back negative).
In Home sample collection tests: The Pixel by LabCorp Test Home Collection Kit has been given emergency use authorization by the FDA. This test allows you to collect a nasal swab specimen at home and send that specimen for testing by LabCorp using the COVID-19 RT-PCR test. Test results are delivered back to you through a Pixel by LabCorp account created during registration. If the test is positive or invalid/indeterminate you additionally will receive a phone call from a healthcare provider.
- The Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit is for use by adults 18 years and older to self-collect nasal swab specimens, including for use by those without symptoms or other reasons to suspect COVID-19 infection. You order the test online and complete a short eligibility survey. The kit is mailed to you via FedEx and once the kit is received follow the test collection instructions exactly as provided to obtain the best specimen for testing.
- The Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit is not a substitute for visits to a healthcare provider. Your tests results should not be used to start, stop, or change any course of treatment unless advised by your healthcare provider.
- The test costs $119.00. When you register for this test you choose to have the lab bill your insurance company, use federal funds to cover the test cost, or charge the fee to your credit card (for those who do not qualify for federal funds).
- Test results are available online in 1-2 days.
There are other companies that offer in-home sample collection. Some of these labs require pre-payment while other test centers will bill your insurance company. The accuracy of any in-home test depends on following the instructions for sample collection and returning the sample as directed. Results are generally available 3 days after the lab receives the sample in the mail (not after it’s mailed.
If you have reason to believe you have been exposed and your in-home test result is negative, it is important to follow up with a healthcare provider for further evaluation or to get re-tested.
What about the antibody test?
For virus testing locations in New Hampshire: The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services provides this list as a service to the community. The Department does not endorse any particular entity for COVID-19 testing services.
- The antibody test is a blood test to check for the presence of COVID-19 virus antibodies in your blood.
- This test is ordered by your healthcare provider who will explain the results to you once the test is completed.
- This test may or may not be covered by your insurance. If you are not sure you should contact your health insurance company and ask if the COVID-19 antibody test, including the blood collection, is covered by your policy.