What tests are available to test for COVID-19?

There are a few ways to test for the novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes Covid-19 disease. 


1. PCR testing (swab in nose or mouth): this tests for viral particles and ACTIVE infection. 


A positive result means you are contagious to others and should self-isolate for up to 14 days as well as follow closely with your doctor. Please keep in mind there are risks for false-negatives (which is a negative result when actual infection exists).  A negative result still warrants an individualized discussion regarding your management with your doctor.


LA County is currently offering this test for all residents, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. Click HERE for more information about getting this testing.


2. Antibody or Serology testing (blood test): this tests for antibodies in the blood, which would potentially indicate prior exposure to the virus. Antibodies are immune cells that fight infection from pathogens such as viruses. 


There are many serology tests currently available, but only a few have been approved for use under the Emergency Use Act (EUA) by the FDA. This does not mean they are FDA approved, rather they have been briefly studied by the FDA and cleared for immediate use without standard testing.  Our group is using only tests that have EUA approval. These tests are performed at St. Johns, LabCorp or Quest. Turnaround time is 3-7 days.


Schedule an appointment with your doctor to find out how, when, and where to get tested for antibodies.


Usually people produce antibodies or “seroconvert” 7-10 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2. These antibody tests check for IgM or IgG antibodies.  IgM antibodies usually wane after a few weeks of infection, but IgG antibodies usually remain elevated for longer periods of time (typically peak at 14 days after onset of symptoms).  Antibody testing is only done on asymptomatic patients, typically at least 3 weeks after onset of symptoms if the patient was symptomatic.


A positive result implies there was exposure to SARS-CoV-2. False positives (which is a positive result in a person who was never exposed) may occur if the antibody testing cross-reacts with those of other coronaviruses (those that have already existed for some time, such as the common cold).


A negative result implies that there was no exposure to SARS-CoV-2. However, not everyone may seroconvert, as can be seen with immunocompromised people and people with very mild symptoms or low amounts of virus (viral loads). This may lead to false negatives.


We do not know whether the presence of antibodies indicates immunity, or protection against further infections of SARS-CoV-2.  Published data has shown that these antibodies may be detectable for several months after infection. 


Indications for Antibody (Serology) testing:

• Patients with suspected prior infection but did not have PCR testing or had negative PCR testing
• Patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 and want to donate plasma
• Patients in clinical trials or research
• Frontline or first responders
• Asymptomatic immunocompromised patients (those who are elderly, have diabetes or autoimmune diseases or undergoing cancer treatment), if required by their healthcare facility or treating physician
• Patients scheduled for surgery in combination with PCR testing
• Patients in close contact with high risk patients (immunocompromised or elderly)


Antibody (Serology) testing is not recommended for:

• Diagnosis of active Covid-19
• Low risk, asymptomatic patients
• Healthy children and young adults


The most important thing, regardless of testing results, is to continue to prevent spread of this disease.  We can do this by practicing physical distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home as much as possible. If you have symptoms of infection such as fever, sore throat, cough, body aches, shortness of breath, loss of sense of taste or smell contact your doctor right away.  Your doctor will evaluate you virtually using telemedicine and determine your needs for further evaluation and treatment.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

PCR Testing:

  • SMFP Urgent Care - If you have symptoms, our doctors are available to evaluate you and do appropriate testing (including COVID-19 testing). No appointment needed:

901 Wilshire Ave, Santa Monica CA 90403

Hours Mon - Fri 8:30 am - 8:30 pm, Sat - Sun 10 am - 2:30 pm

(310) 829-8441

  • Other locations around Los Angeles:

  • Testing at home:

    • you can order a home collection kit from LabCorp PIXEL. LabCorp delivers the kit to your home, you do the sample collection according to package directions, and drop the completed sample off at your nearest LabCorp site. Please note: sample must be frozen after collection.

    • Quest Diagnostics also offers a home testing kit for COVID-19 - CLICK HERE for more information.

    • please note:  these tests may not be covered by insurance, and results are NOT reported to your doctor.

Antibody Testing:

  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor to find out how, when, and where to get tested for antibodies.

  • LabCorp and Quest labs both offer antibody testing for COVID-19​ - please note: this is an independent service, NOT endorsed by our doctors, NOT done through our offices, and may not be covered by your insurance. Utility and clinical significance of this testing has not been determined. 

Updated 10/18/2020



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