Molecular (PCR) Testing FAQs
The information below provides answers to frequently asked questions.
What is Molecular (PCR) Testing for COVID-19?
Uses nucleic acid-amplification technology (e.g., PCR), which detects the genetic information and indicates active infection with the virus which causes COVID-19.
What does it mean if the specimen tests NEGATIVE for the virus that causes COVID-19?
A negative test result for this test means that SARS-CoV-2 RNA was not detected in the specimen. However, a negative result does not completely rule out COVID-19 and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions. When diagnostic testing is negative, the possibility of a false negative result should be considered in the context of any recent exposure and clinical signs or symptoms that may suggest COVID-19. The possibility of a false negative result should especially be considered if COVID-19 is clinically likely and diagnostic tests for other causes of illness (e.g., other respiratory illness) are negative. If COVID-19 is still suspected, re-testing should be considered by healthcare providers in consultation with public health authorities.
What does it mean if the specimen tests POSITIVE for the virus that causes COVID-19?
A positive test result indicates that SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected, and the patient is presumably infected with the virus and presumably contagious. Laboratory test results should be considered in the clinical and community context to establish a final diagnosis and care plan. Positive results do not rule out simultaneous bacterial infection or co-infection with other viruses. Patient management decisions should be made by a healthcare provider and should follow the current CDC guidelines. The COVID-19 test has been designed to minimize the likelihood of false-positive test results, but it may not be possible to completely exclude a false positive.