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Apolymerase chain reaction (PCR) molecular test using mucleic acid amplification, or NAAT (test code 39448), is available to test asymptomatic and symptomatic patients for COVID-19. Through qualitative multi-target molecular diagnosis, this testing  option helps to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2. 

Quest processes 4 different molecular test: an FDA emergency use-authorized Quest Diagnostics lab-developed test (LDT); an FDA emergency use-authorized Roche Diagnostics® test; an FDA emergency use-authorize Hologic® Panther Fusion® test; and an FDA emergency use-authorized Hologic Panther COVID-19 molecular assay.

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In line with guidelines originally issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prioritize SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) testing for those individuals at greatest risk, Quest Diagnostics implemented a Priority Specimen Handling Program. We continue to make enhancements to the program to best align with state and local health department guidelines, as well as to meet the evolving needs of our customers and your patients.

Quest's current guidelines on prioritization of laboratory testing for COVID-19 are as follows.

Priority patients

At Quest, we continue to prioritize molecular testing and TAT for Priority patients. Priority testing parameters are defined as hospitalized, long-term care (LTC), and presurgical patients.

Results turnaround

Typically 2-3 days from specimen pickup


Priority testing helps ensure optimal care options for all hospitalized and acute care patients. It also lessens the risk of healthcare-associated infections, and maintains the integrity of the US healthcare system.

Long-term care (LTC) settings present extreme risk for both the spread and effects of COVID-19, due to proximity of living conditions and population of elderly patients with chronic medical conditions. These factors have led to an increased testing focus on nursing homes.

Priority testing should be submitted with an orange handling card.

General population

COVID-19 is unpredictable, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely should changing dynamics affecting demand, supplies, and other factors cause our expectations for turnaround time to slip. 

Results turnaround

Typically 2-3 days from specimen pickup

  • First in, first out
  • Testing will be prioritized based on the order in which the specimens were received in the lab.
  • Testing for the general population does not need to include a handling card. 
How to order priority handling cards

For hospital customers: Using Quanum® supplies ordering, order your Priority Handling Cards using using part number FM18.

For physician customers: Physicians should contact Quest Supply Order Entry to order orange Priority Handling Cards with part # FM120.

Yellow and green handling cards for Priority 2 and Priority 3 patients have been discontinued.

Quest will continue to monitor the effectiveness of our COVID-19 Prioritization Program to ensure testing resources are committed to rapid testing and results for patients at highest risk throughout the pandemic. As the needs of the public shift, we will continue to work with our customers and government authorities to ensure our testing efforts are appropriately reprioritized.

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To increase testing capacity and make the ordering process more convenient for healthcare professionals and hospitals, Quest has implemented a one code ordering system for all molecular tests.

Healthcare professionals can now order COVID-19 molecular testing using a single code—39448. Ordering COVID-19 molecular testing with a single code allows Quest to more efficiently distribute testing to whichever platform offers the best capacity, either at the ordering site or across our network of laboratories. This helps improve turnaround time and result delivery.

Supervised self-collection for molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV-2 RNA (COVID-19) Qualitative NAAT (test code 39448) is now offered in Quest Patient Service Centers, where allowed by state regulations, for patients who are asymptomatic or experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms. 

If patients are experiencing severe symptoms such as a high-grade fever of 102 °F or more that has lasted for 48 hours or severe and constant shortness of breath, they will need to consult a healthcare provider and will not be eligible for testing at a Patient Service Center. 

Patients can schedule an appointment online. Appointments are strongly encouraged and walk-ins may be accommodated based on availability. 

Patients visiting a Patient Service Center must wear a mask per current CDC healthcare facility guidelines. 

What is the test name and test code?

The test name is SARS-CoV-2 RNA (COVID-19), Qualitative NAAT. The test code is 39448. All test specific information can be found in the Test Directory.

What facilities can collect specimens?

Supervised self-collection for molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV-2 RNA (COVID-19) Qualitative NAAT (test code 39448) is now offered in Quest Patient Service Centers, where allowed by state regulations, for patients who are asymptomatic or experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms. 

Patients can schedule an appointment online. Appointments are strongly encouraged and walk-ins may be accommodated based on availability.  

How can I order the Quest Diagnostics test for COVID-19?

Physicians may order the test using one test code39448. The test must be ordered on a separate requisition from other tests.

Specimens submitted will be evaluated upon receipt by Quest and routed to the appropriate COVID-19 testing platform (LDT, Roche, Hologic) after evaluating the specific specimen type received, collection vial (medium/swab, etc) submitted, patient type priority status, and testing capacity available. This helps optimize test turnaround time.

How does having one test code improve flexibility and testing capacity?

A single test code will allow Quest to better manage the capacity within each lab and across labs performing the molecular PCR COVID-19 tests. As tests are submitted, Quest will route the incoming specimens to a molecular PCR test (LDT, Roche, Hologic, or others) to optimize capacity and minimize the possibility of a backlog on a given platform. Being able to direct the specimen across numerous different, but equivalent, platforms allows Quest to optimize testing capacity across all options and across the Quest laboratory network. The single test code system helps maximize throughput and ability to manage demand.

When is the single test code available to use?

The new, flexible test code, 39448, should be used immediately after April 13, 2020. Previous codes 39433 (Quest LDT) and 39444 (Roche) will be discontinued and will not be orderable after May 4, 2020.

What is Quest's capacity for testing?

Quest Diagnostics has rapidly expanded testing capacity with the addition of multiple test types running simultaneously in many of our laboratories across the country.

Is saline an acceptable transport medium?

Saline has been indicated by the FDA as an acceptable transport medium that can be used in situations where commercial viral transport media are unavailable for molecular RT-PCR SARS-CoV-2 assays (such as those in use for the Quest COVID-19 tests). Note: The FDA believes that for saline, a sterile plastic vial containing between 1mL and 3mL of phosphate-buffered saline is appropriate. The FDA believes that sample collection with a flocked swab is preferred. When options are limited, collection by a foam swab or spun synthetic swab is also acceptable, but may not be sufficient to rule out infection. Collection should be conducted with a sterile swab.

Quest PBS (Phosphate-Buffered Saline) NP Swab convenience kits for nasopharyngeal specimen collection are available. Client orders will be facilitated via the existing order fulfillment process for COVID-19 specific collection supplies.

How do I order appropriate supplies for COVID-19 testing?

We are still accepting orders for COVID-19 testing. As a reminder, Quest does not manufacture the collection supplies used in testing. Due to extraordinary demand, we are temporarily unable to accept orders for upper respiratory specimen collection and transport supplies online. You do not have to use supplies from Quest to send us testing. Please refer to the Specimen Device Collection Guide to help you identify acceptable supplies for COVID-19 specimen collection.

How do healthcare providers and patients get results?

Providers will receive a phone call if the test result is positive or inconclusive. Patients will be notified through MyQuest if they signed up for it.

COVID-19 testing statements
  • The antibody tests and the molecular tests (together “All tests”) have not been FDA cleared or approved;
  • All tests have been authorized by FDA under EUAs for use by authorized laboratories;
  • The antibody tests have been authorized only for the detection of IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens;
  • The molecular tests have been authorized only for the detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses, pathogens; and,
  • All tests are only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(b)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1), unless the authorization is terminated or revoked sooner.

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