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COVID-19 testing for patients

While SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is no longer at pandemic levels, it is still a major health concern and cases are expected to rise during the fall and winter. Plus, it can be easy to mix up COVID-19 symptoms with other seasonal respiratory illnesses like the flu or an RSV sinus infection. Whether you're ready to get tested right away or need to review your testing options, Quest has the information you're looking for.

How to get COVID-19 testing

Choose from 3 paths to get tested for COVID-19 at Quest Diagnostics.

Make an appointment for COVID-19 tests

If you have an order for COVID-19 testing through your doctor, schedule your appointment at a Quest location near you.

Schedule now

COVID-19 symptoms and test information

Is it COVID-19, flu, or RSV?

Influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) sinus infections have similar symptoms to COVID-19 and are most common during the same time of year—late fall through winter. Plus, they are all contagious viruses that can be spread easily through person-to-person contact, including coughing and sneezing.

That’s where the similarities end. COVID-19, flu, and RSV respond best to different treatments, so it’s important to pinpoint the specific illness you have through testing. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what test option may be best for you.

Why choose this test? This test is to help check if you have COVID-19.

Test overview: Checks for genetic material produced by the virus (viral RNA) to determine if someone is currently infected

Accuracy: Highly accurate and usually does not need to be repeated

Turnaround time for results: Typically end of next day

Test method: Nasal swab

How to get tested:

  • With an order from your doctor, make an appointment at a Quest Patient Service Center near you.
  • Purchase the test for yourself online at questhealth.com. You can choose to make an in-person appointment at a Quest near you, or have an at-home collection kit mailed to you.
  • If you are uninsured, see if you qualify for no-cost testing at select Quest locations.

Why choose this test? This test is to help check if you have COVID-19 or influenza.

Test overview: This combination test checks for both influenza A and B, as well as COVID-19—all at the same time. Results will rule in or rule out each of the viral infections.

Accuracy: Highly accurate and usually does not need to be repeated

Turnaround time for results: Typically 1-2 days

Test method: Nasal swab

How to get tested:

  • With an order from your doctor, make an appointment at a Quest Patient Service Center near you.
  • Purchase the test for yourself online at questhealth.com, then make an in-person appointment at a Quest near you.
  • If you are uninsured, see if you qualify for no-cost testing options at select Quest locations.

Why choose this test? This test is to help check if you have COVID-19, influenza, or RSV.

Test overview: For those experiencing symptoms, this combination test can help rule in or rule out COVID-19, flu, and sinus infection (RSV) with a single swab. Results will rule in or rule out each of the viral infections.

Accuracy: Highly accurate and usually does not need to be repeated

Turnaround time for results: Typically 1-2 days

Test method: Nasal swab

How to get tested:

  • Contact your doctor or healthcare provider to request a Quest COVID-19, flu, and RSV swab test. Once you have your test order, make an appointment to have your sample collected at a Quest Patient Service Center.

Why choose this test? This test is to help determine if you have long COVID or if another underlying health problem is causing your symptoms.

Test overview:

  • The Post COVID-19 Expanded Test Panel measures the following components: Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP), Complete Blood Count (CBC), C-Reactive Protein (CRP), Ferritin, Hepatic Function Panel, Thyroid Function Test, Vitamin B12 Test, Vitamin D Test, and Urinalysis
  • The Post COVID-19 Basic Test Panel measures the following components: C-Reactive Protein (CRP), Thyroid Function Test, Vitamin B12 Test, and Vitamin D Test

Accuracy: Highly accurate and usually does not need to be repeated

Turnaround time for results: Typically end of next day

Test method: Blood and urine tests

How to get tested:

  • With an order from your doctor, make an appointment at a Quest Patient Service Center near you.
  • Purchase the test for yourself online at questhealth.com, then make an in-person appointment at a Quest near you.

Why choose this test? This test is to help check if you had COVID-19 in the past. It cannot detect a current infection.

Test overview: Checks for spike protein antibodies to detect a prior or recent infection, regardless of whether symptoms were presenta

Accuracy: Not applicable

Turnaround time for results: Typically 1-2 days

Test method: Blood test

How to get tested:

  • Start by either purchasing a test online at questhealth.com, or by asking your healthcare provider to order a test for you.
  • Once you have your test order, make an appointment to have your sample collected at a Quest Patient Service Center.

Why choose this test? This test is to help check if you have COVID-19.

Test overview: Checks if someone is currently infected by looking for viral proteins and delivers rapid results in just 15 to 30 minutesb

Accuracy: Lower accuracy than molecular (eg, PCR) tests

Turnaround time for results: Typically 15-30 minutes

Test method: Nasal swab

How to get tested:

  • A COVID-19 at-home rapid antigen test (2-pack) is available for purchase online at questhealth.com. It is observed remotely by a healthcare professional via telehealth.

Important COVID-19 testing statements

  • The Quest Diagnostics molecular test, the other authorized molecular tests and the self-collection kit (together the “molecular tests”), the COVID/Flu molecular test and self-collection kit, the COVID/Flu/RSV test, the antigen test and the antibody test (together “the tests”) have not been FDA cleared or approved;
  • The tests have been authorized by FDA under an EUA for use by authorized laboratories;
  • The molecular tests have been authorized only for the unsupervised self-collection and maintenance of nasal specimens for the detection of nucleic acid from SARS CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens; 
  • The COVID/Flu molecular test and self-collection kit have been authorized only for the unsupervised self-collection and maintenance of nasal specimens for as an aid in detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2 and influenza A virus and influenza B virus, not for any other viruses or pathogens;
  • The COVID/Flu/RSV test has been authorized only for the simultaneous qualitative detection and differentiation of nucleic acids from SARS-CoV-2, influenza A, influenza B, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and not for any other viruses or pathogens;
  • The antigen test has been authorized only for the detection of proteins from SARS- CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens; 
  • The antibody test has been authorized only for the detection of IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens; and,
  • The 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.

General symptoms COVID-191 Flu2 RSV3 (sinus infection) Cold4 Long COVID5 Allergies6
Fever or chills X X X   X  
Cough X X X X X  
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing     X      
Sore throat X X   X X  
Congestion or runny nose X   X X   X
Fatigue X X   X X  
Muscle or body aches X X     X  
Headache X X   X X  
New loss of taste or smell X X     X  
Nausea or vomiting X X     X  
Diarrhea X X     X  

Testing for long COVID

Long COVID, also known as post-COVID, is when symptoms linger for several weeks or months after a COVID-19 infection has run its course. Quest offers testing to help you and your doctor determine if you have long COVID or if another underlying health problem is causing your symptoms.

View post-COVID test panels

Post–COVID-19 test panels

Quest's test panels for long COVID measure:

  • C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
  • Thyroid Function Test
  • Vitamin B12 Test
  • Vitamin D Test
  • And more

Note: These tests do NOT test for or diagnose COVID-19.

Getting COVID-19 test results

The quickest way to get your test results is having them sent automatically through your secure MyQuest® online portal. If you don't already have a MyQuest account, signing up is free and easy.

Open MyQuest

Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 testing at Quest

About COVID-19

COVID-19 is the name for the respiratory syndrome caused by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). 

Though the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency was ended in May 2023, it remains a serious health concern. According to the World Health Organization, confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to occur around the world.

In fact, COVID-19 cases are expected to peak between late fall and early winter, which is typical for a respiratory virus like COVID-19 or the flu.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, loss of smell, coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, feeling weak or lethargic, chills, muscle pain, lightheadedness or dizziness, headache, vomiting or diarrhea, slurred speech, and/or seizures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers many resources on COVID-19, including symptoms.

The symptoms of COVID-19 can be very similar to other respiratory infections like influenza (flu) or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). So different tests are available to help determine which illness is making you sick.

If you suspect you may have COVID-19, contact your doctor or an authorized healthcare provider immediately for guidance. Your healthcare provider can review your symptoms to determine what testing is appropriate. To help you and your doctor determine if you have COVID-19, active infection testing is available through a doctor's order or by purchasing online at questhealth.com, and you can make an appointment to be tested at a Quest location or purchase an at-home collection kit. At-home rapid antigen testing is also available to purchase at questhealth.com, and it is observed remotely by a healthcare professional via telehealth.

You are considered to be contagious for up to 10 days from the start of your first COVID-19 symptoms. The CDC recommends isolating from others for at least 5 days after testing positive for COVID-19. However, if your symptoms are not improving, the recommendation is to isolate for 10 days.

You are considered "recovered" from COVID-19 and no longer infectious if it has been at least 10 days from the start of your first symptoms, at least 24 hours without a fever, and all other symptoms have improved.

Additionally, an antibody test may be able to detect if you have previously had an infection and already recovered—even if you never experienced symptoms. Detecting antibodies indicates you may possibly have a lower risk of getting COVID-19 again. However, more research is needed because it is not yet known how long antibodies will last after infection and whether antibodies offer short- and/or long-term protection against getting infected again.b

About Quest COVID-19 testing options

If you suspect you have COVID-19 or were recently in contact with someone who had it, a swab test can tell you whether you have an active infection. Knowing if you currently have COVID-19 gives you the information you need to self-isolate and protect everyone around you.

If you suspect that you had a recent or prior COVID-19 infection, even if you never showed signs of being sick, you can take an antibody blood test to confirm prior infection.

Understanding your antibody status also gives you and your healthcare provider the insight to make an informed decision about returning to activity. Other reasons why it’s beneficial to know if you are positive for COVID-19 antibodies include:

  • Tracking evidence of your antibodies over time
  • Encouraging those you were in contact with to talk to their doctor about getting tested
  • Reducing the need to be monitored and retested for COVID-19 infection

Yes, and Quest labs are leaders in processing the complex COVID-19 testing.

For diagnosis of an active COVID-19 infection, check if you’re eligible for a no-cost test. Testing and sample collection are available at a variety of locations, including Walmart® pharmacy drive-thrus and other participating retail locations. Those without any COVID-19 symptoms also have the option of going to select Quest Patient Service Centers, though appointments are preferred over walk-ins. If you are not eligible or want the convenience of testing at home, purchase an at-home kit through questhealth.com

Current COVID-19 infections may also be detected with a rapid antigen test. Results are typically ready in just 15 to 30 minutes. A COVID-19 at-home rapid antigen test (2-pack) is available for purchase at questhealth.com. It is observed remotely by a healthcare professional via telehealth. Testing is for ages 2+, regardless of symptoms.

If your healthcare provider is unsure what is causing your respiratory symptoms, they may recommend a COVID-19 and flu or a COVID-19, flu, and RSV combination test. A single sample is collected via nasal swab to be tested for multiple viral infections. The test results of this combination test will rule in or rule out each of the viral infections.

If you may have already been exposed to COVID-19, you may be eligible for antibody testing. To get tested for COVID-19 antibodies, you can order the test for yourself via questhealth.com. This allows you to get tested without waiting to go your doctor first. Or, you can reach out to your doctor or healthcare provider and have them submit an order for your test.

Yes. Getting tested for COVID-19, flu, and RSV at the same time is called a combination test.

The symptoms of COVID-19 can be very similar to other respiratory infections like influenza or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). So different combination tests are available to help determine which illness is making you sick. There is a combination test for COVID-19 and flu, and another combination test for COVID-19, flu, and RSV.

With just 1 combination test, you and your doctor can determine if you have COVID-19, flu, or RSV. It eliminates the need for multiple tests or doctor visits, and can help you get the right treatment plan as soon as possible.

The cotesting approach helps increase testing capacity, especially during the busy flu season, and speeds up the time to a diagnosis.

Yes, several types of COVID-19 tests can be purchased online through the questhealth.com, including:

The cost of tests through questhealth.com cannot be submitted to health insurance.

Yes, 2 types of COVID-19 tests have an at-home collection option:

When using an active infection at-home collection kit to test for COVID-19, you’ll follow these steps:

1. Purchase: Select and purchase your active infection COVID-19 test at questhealth.com.

2. Kit shipment: Sample collection kit is delivered to the address provided.

3. Collect sample: Follow the detailed instructions provided in kit. However, the basic process for swabbing your nose is to:

  • Wash and dry your hands
  • Remove swab from package (do not touch the tip of the swab)
  • Open the specimen tube (do not spill or drink the liquid in the tube)
  • Insert the swab into 1 nostril about half an inch
  • Rotate the swab in a circular motion around the inside of the nostril twice, then hold the swab still in your nostril for an additional 15 seconds
  • Repeat the same process in your other nostril using the same swab
  • Insert the swab, tip first, into the specimen tube until the tip reaches the bottom liquid
  • Break the swab at the top of the tube
  • Screw cap onto the tube tightly

Or watch this video explaining the at-home collection process.

4. Return sample: Send sample back to Quest using the prepaid packaging provided in your kit.

5. Get results online: You will receive an email when your confidential results are available. View results online.

The rapid antigen at-home sample collection process will also include detailed instructions and provides virtual supervision. Instead of mailing back your sample, you’ll be instructed to place the liquid onto an indicator device that may detect the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. Purchase at questhealth.com.

According to the CDC, active infection molecular tests may continue to return a positive result for up to 90 days after the initial COVID-19 infection.

The molecular, antigen, and antibody tests for COVID-19 used by Quest Diagnostics have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. However, they have not been FDA cleared or approved.

About long COVID testing

Sometimes referred to as long-haul COVID, chronic COVID, post-COVID condition, or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, the CDC defines long COVID as health problems that last 4 or more weeks after first infection with the coronavirus.

While the reason is still unclear, these long-term effects may increase the risk of diabetes, heart conditions, autoimmune disorders, and neurological conditions.

Yes, you can still be tested for long COVID even if you never tested positive for COVID-19.

While most people with long COVID have evidence of infection or COVID-19 illness, according to the CDC there are some cases in which a person with long COVID may not have tested positive for the virus or known they were infected.

No, long COVID test panels cannot diagnose current or past COVID-19 infections. 

Yes, Quest offers 2 exclusive test panels to check if your lingering symptoms are from long COVID or another health issue. Both tests are available to purchase for yourself through questhealth.com.

How to get COVID-19 testing through Quest

Yes, walk-ins are welcome at Quest, including for COVID-19 testing. However, patients with scheduled appointments take priority over walk-ins.

If you are coughing, sneezing, or have a sore throat, it is recommended that you wear a mask to protect yourself and others.

Yes. Making an appointment at a Quest location is the best way to reduce your wait time.

Schedule an appointment

Having an order from your own doctor is one way to get COVID-19 testing at Quest.

You can also purchase a test from questhealth.com; the test will be ordered by physicians at PNWHealth, an independent healthcare provider network that coordinates care with Quest.

Yes. It is common and generally safe to get other routine tests or vaccinations at the same time you get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Masks are not required at Quest locations. However, if you are coughing, sneezing, or have a sore throat, it is recommended that you wear a mask to protect yourself and others.

Quest has strong safety procedures in place at all times to protect patients and employees from coming into contact with any infectious diseases. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have added more precautions that make it easier to access the testing you need from Quest.

These measures are still in place today and include:

  • Encouraging online scheduling to limit your wait time and the number of people in waiting rooms
  • Encouraging patients with severe symptoms (fever or flu-like symptoms) to reschedule for when they are feeling better
  • Recommending that patients feeling unwell should protect themselves and others by wearing a mask
  • Offering a text alert option that allows patients to wait for appointments outside

COVID-19 test results

Typically, the quickest way to get your test results is having them sent to you automatically through your secure MyQuest® online portal. If you don’t already have a MyQuest account, signing up is free and easy.

According to the CDC, a positive COVID-19 test result means the virus was detected. That indicates you currently have or recently had a COVID-19 infection.

With a negative COVID-19 test result, the virus was not detected.

But false positives and false negatives are possible, especially with antigen tests that have a lower level of accuracy than molecular tests. Repeat testing is recommended in some cases:

  • If an antigen test shows a positive result, but you do not have any symptoms and haven’t been exposed recently
  • If an antigen test shows a negative result, but you do have symptoms

The turnaround time for COVID-19 test results varies from 15 minutes to 2 days depending on the type of test you receive. The rapid antigen test takes 15-30 minutes to get results. Active infection testing results for COVID-19 alone are typically ready by the end of the following day. COVID-19 and flu combination tests or COVID-19, flu, and RSV combination tests typically take 1-2 days.

Yes. Testing a nasal swab with blood on it may lead to a false-positive COVID-19 result.

No. Taking a COVID-19 test when you have a sinus infection should not impact the results.

COVID-19 test costs

If paying through your insurance, most health plans cover COVID-19 testing, as well as flu and RSV testing. Though you should check with your insurance provider for coverage details.

If purchasing a test for yourself through questhealth.com, the cost is about $70 for a rapid antigen test or about $129 for an active infection test.

There is also a no-cost COVID-19 test option for those without insurance.

Most health plan benefits cover COVID-19 testing. Though you should check with your insurance provider for coverage details.

Yes, health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) allow health plan members to pay for COVID-19 testing, including the at-home collection service, out of their individual accounts.

If you are uninsured, there are many ways to get tested:

  • Patients without insurance who are symptomatic or exposed are eligible for no-cost COVID-19 testing at select Quest Diagnostics locations, funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
    • This program is offered in most states, except AK, AL, AZ, DC, DE, HI, KS, KY, LA, ME, MI, MN, MS, MT, ND, SD, UT, VT, WA, and WY.
    • Supervised self-collection is not available in the following states due to state regulations: AK, AL, AZ, CA, DC, DE, HI, KS, KY, LA, ME, MI, MN, MS, MT, ND, OK, OR, RI, UT, VT, WA, and WY.
    • Supervised self-collection may be available only at select Patient Service Centers in all other states. Contact your Quest representative for a list of Patient Service Centers offering supervised self-collection in those states.
    • This program includes both molecular (eg, PCR) and COVID-19 and flu molecular (eg, PCR) tests. The COVID-19 and flu test is only available if you are experiencing COVID-19 and/or flu symptoms.
    • This program is available to eligible individuals ages 2 and older. Patients between the ages of 2 and 17 must be accompanied to their appointment by a parent or legal guardian. This may vary based on the age of majority in your state.
    • You do not need a doctor's referral or appointment to be eligible for sponsored testing. You can check your eligibility, book an appointment, and proceed with the sample collection at your own discretion. If you receive a positive test result (or an inconclusive or invalid result), you will be contacted by PWN to review your results. We encourage you to discuss your test results with your doctor.
  • Patients can purchase COVID-19 testing out-of-pocket at questhealth.com.
  • If you live in Arizona, visit www.SonoraQuest.com/OrderCovid.
  • Your state Department of Health may offer $0 out-of-pocket testing options.
  • You may qualify for Medicaid or apply for other state-funded programs that cover testing costs. Visit these websites to learn more:

To speak with customer service, call 1.866.697.8378 (toll-free).

The Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) is a goverment-sponsored program established to offer COVID-19 testing for US communities that are at greater risk of being affected by the pandemic. As the pandemic is no longer designated a public health emergency, the qualifications for this program have been narrowed to those who are uninsured. This allows the ICATT program to continue serving the community and effectively manage the spread of COVID-19.

 

References

1 Symptoms of COVID-19.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated October 26, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

2 Flu symptoms & complications.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed October 3, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm

3 Respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV) symptoms and care.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed July 27, 2023. Accessed August 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/about/symptoms.html

4 Cold versus flu.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed September 29, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm

5 Long COVID or post-COVID conditions.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated July 20, 2023. Accessed August 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html

6 Allergens and pollen.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed August 21, 2020. Accessed August 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/allergen.htm

 

Footnotes

a Positive results with the antibody test may occur after COVID-19 vaccination, but the clinical significance is not yet known. How long antibodies remain detectable after infection or vaccination and how long protection, if any, may last is not yet known. The results of this test should not be interpreted as an indication of degree of immunity or protection.

b Rapid antigen tests are less accurate than molecular tests, so your doctor may recommend a molecular test when your antigen test result does not make sense with your symptoms and exposure history. For example, when the antigen test says you are infected, but you do not have symptoms (and have not been exposed recently). Another example is when your antigen test says you are not infected, but you have symptoms. Rapid antigen tests have their best accuracy within 7 days of symptoms starting. Accuracy and the clinical significance of results beyond the 7 days is not known.

 

About the FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Status

This test has been authorized by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This means that while Quest Diagnostics has validated the test and has the data to believe the test and the collection kit are accurate, this test has not been FDA cleared or approved; this test has been authorized by FDA under an EUA for use by authorized laboratories; this test has been authorized only for the detection of IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens; and, this test is 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. Additional studies need to be conducted for this test and others like it to be FDA cleared or approved.