Covid-19 Testing

Coronaviruses are a large group of RNA viruses that can affect humans. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease that is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Symptoms can be mild to severe and often include fever, cough, headache, and new onset loss of smell or taste. Severe symptoms may include breathing difficulties and death.


The SARS-CoV-2 test is a real-time RT-PCR assay intended for the qualitative detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2 from upper and lower respiratory specimens. Collection types of specimens can include nasal and oropharyngeal swabs.

Nucleic acids are extracted from patient samples, then polymerase chain reactions (PCR) are performed to amplify the nucleic acids. During PCR, probes are used to bind to targets that are specific to SARS-CoV-2. The intensity of the targets are collected as data, and the data is used to determine if the virus that causes COVID-19 is present in your sample. Results are intended to identify SARS-CoV-2 RNA, which is generally detectable in respiratory samples during the acute phase of infection.


1. Positive Results

The Covid-19 virus present.

Your RT-PCR test DETECTED SARS-CoV-2 virus. Most likely, you DO currently have an active COVID-19 infection and can give the virus to others. Therefore, it is advised that you self-isolate to avoid spreading the virus to others. There is a very small chance that this test can give a positive result that is incorrect (a false positive result).

2. Negative Results

The Covid-19 virus is not present.

Your RT-PCR test DID NOT DETECT SARS-CoV-2. A negative test result indicates the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in your sample, and you were probably not infected at the time your sample was collected. A negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 indicates COVID-19 did not cause your recent illness.

It is, however, possible for this test to give a negative result that is incorrect (false negative) in some patients with COVID-19. Hence, it is possible to have COVID-19 despite a negative test result. This can happen if the test was taken too soon after infection to detect the virus or if there was a problem with your sample or the test itself. A false negative result should be considered if you had recent exposure to the virus along with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, especially if diagnostic tests for other respiratory illnesses are negative.

3. Inconclusive

Repeat Covid-19 test is necessary.

Next Steps

It is important that you work with a healthcare provider to determine the best care for you based on this test result, your medical history, your symptoms, possible exposures, and geographic location of places you have recently traveled.Stay home and follow CDC guidance on steps to take if you are sick. If you are a healthcare or critical infrastructure worker, notify your place of work of your test result.