Patients and Testing

COVID-19 Testing

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested with a nasal test. If you have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms you should wait at least 3-4 days after exposure before getting tested. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) recommendation for testing is a PCR (nasal swab) test only. Blood tests for antibodies are not currently recommended for determining illness status.

Testing Recommendations and Requirements Info Sheet

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After persons are tested for COVID-19, they should go home to self-isolate and remain there until their results are reported to them by their healthcare provider. They are not to go anywhere other than home. If a person is being tested for COVID-19 and hospitalized, they will be in isolation prescribed by the facility's Infection Control Office. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and ADPH.

Going Back to Work

Whether an individual is a case or close contact, they should complete isolation/quarantine instructions before going back to work – plus – be completely fever-free for 24 hours without fever reducing medications. Having a repeat test in order to go back to work is not recommended and is discouraged - except in very specific situations (individual is immunocompromised). Employers should not need any additional documentation beyond the quarantine information (or letter if available) in order to allow return to work.

Testing Sites

Our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard and COVID-19 Table provides a list of testing sites. These facilities have reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) that they are collecting specimens for COVID-19. This lists and dashboard map may not reflect all collection sites in Alabama. Call the testing site for additional information before visiting.

Persons with a Laboratory Confirmed Case of COVID-19 or Close Contacts of a Case

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, an employee (case investigator) from the health department might call you. Depending on which of these groups you fall under (case and/or contact) you may receive one or more calls. If you are initially a contact but later test positive for COVID-19 you will receive the initial call for contact tracing then an additional call for a case investigation should you later test positive. They will ask you to stay at home and self-quarantine for a given timeframe and provide other general information.

Please be sure to answer the call to help slow the spread of COVID-19. For resources for those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and to learn more about contact tracing, visit Contact Tracing.

For General Questions

For general COVID-19 questions, call 1-800-270-7268 or email covid19info@adph.state.al.us. Telephone calls are answered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Interpreters are available. For frequently asked questions and to check your symptoms, visit the Alabama.gov COVID-19 Information Hub at covid19.alabama.gov.

Resources

Here are some important resources for those with COVID-19 regarding their health:

Here are additional resources for those exposed to a person with COVID-19:

Testing Criteria

As commercial labs have continued to increase their capacity for testing for the virus causing COVID-19 disease, the ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL) has refocused its testing efforts. Testing is focused toward persons at highest risk for COVID-19 disease, and potential adverse outcomes or concerns regarding infection control (healthcare or long-term care workers) which is consistent with federal guidelines. If a patient does not meet ADPH's criteria and their physician wishes for them to be tested, the patient's specimen should be tested by a commercial laboratory.

ADPH BCL asks that specimens submitted to the state lab follow the criteria below:

The patient is a resident (includes symptomatic and asymptomatic) of a long-term care facility and the facility has laboratory-confirmed cases in residents or staff, or are

  • Hospitalized patients with symptoms
  • Healthcare facility workers, workers in congregate living settings, and first responders with symptoms
  • Residents in long-term care facilities or other congregate living settings, including correctional and detention facilities and shelters, with symptoms
  • Persons without symptoms who have underlying medical conditions or disability placing them at a higher risk of complications, residency in a congregate housing setting such as a homeless shelter or long-term care facility, or screening of other asymptomatic individuals based on a case-by-case review and approval by the state health department or local health jurisdiction.

Providers may order testing for persons not meeting the above criteria but are asked to use a commercial or clinical laboratory with which they have an agreement.

Testing Process

If testing will be conducted at ADPH BCL, the healthcare provider collects a nasopharyngeal, nasal, or oral specimen. The specimen is then put in a viral transport medium and shipped to the State Laboratory for testing using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Assay. The average time from receipt of the specimen at the BCL to test and report results is usually between 24 to 72 hours. Test results are sent only to the healthcare provider who ordered the test. Do not call ADPH for test results.

Information regarding materials to collect the specimen, how to package the specimen properly, and how to ship the specimen to the BCL is available at Healthcare Providers (see Specimen Collection and Shipping Guidance and Specimen Packaging Instructions).

New IconNotice: ADPH BCL Potential Delay in Testing Results

Due to the inability of the ADPH BCL to receive required testing reagents and consumables consistently, results for specimens received for COVID-19 testing beginning April 22, 2020, until further notice might not meet the published turnaround time of 24-72 hours after specimen receipt. Healthcare providers may continue to send specimens to the BCL as usual, and the BCL will send them to a private laboratory for testing as necessary. The BCL regrets this interruption in their testing services but anticipates a timely resolution.





Page last updated: September 24, 2020