HOW DO I?
Published on January 27, 2020. Last modified on June 24, 2020
Diagnostic (PCR) Testing:
COVID-19 is diagnosed utilizing a type of testing technology called reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR. Medical providers swab the inside of a patient's nose and throat. The specimens are sent to a laboratory that performs COVID-19 RT-PCR testing.
The Monterey County Health Department does not prohibit medical providers from collecting patient specimens and submitting them to commercial laboratories like Quest and Lab Corp for COVID-19 testing. Medical providers may utilize their own clinical judgement and available resources to screen, swab, and order tests for their patients. At this time, there are no limitations on the number of specimens Quest, Lab Corp, and other commercial laboratories will receive from medical providers.
Monterey County Health Department's Public Health Laboratory has been approved by the CDC to test for COVID-19. Information about how many tests the Public Health Laboratory has performed is available on the Local Data tab of this website. The Monterey County Health Department recommends that providers utilize testing guidelines from the CDC and California Department of Public Health to determine who should be tested. Monterey County Public Health Laboratory receives all specimens ordered by a licensed medical provider and but must prioritize the order in which they are processed to:
- Inform clinical decision-making processes on individuals severely ill with respiratory illnesses of unknown etiology and on individuals with underlying health conditions that make them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease.
- Provide results to local hospitals faster than commercial labs can so that hospital staff can minimize unnecessary use of scare personal protective equipment and airborne infection isolation rooms.
- Quickly screen health care workers and first responders who may have been exposed to a patient with COVID-19 to maintain a robust health care workforce.
- Screen individuals with signs and symptoms of COVID-19 who have either had high risk exposures or work in settings where they could potentially pass the disease to many individuals at high risk for severe COVID-19 disease. Because of the rapidly evolving situation worldwide, nationally, and in California, the definition of “high risk exposure” changes with the current known epidemiology of COVID-19.
If you have recently had contact with some diagnosed with COVID-19 or have lower respiratory symptoms (e.g, fever with cough), call you medical provider. Your medical provider will determine if you need medical care and and testing. Laboratories like Quest, Lab Corp, and the Monterey County Public Health Laboratory do not collect the nose and throat swabs needed to test for COVID-19. Collection of the swabs must occur in a medical facility and be ordered by a licensed medical provider. Please do not go to a laboratory to have your nose and throat swabbed; they will be unable to conduct the procedure.
Serologic Testing (Antibody)
Serologic tests are different from PCR testing in that serologic tests do not detect the virus that causes COVID-19. Instead, they look for substances your body produces, called antibodies, after being exposed. There are many companies offering serologic testing. However, few have been rigorously examined for accuracy and precision. Before receiving a serologic test, make sure you ask if the test is FDA approved and if it only detects SARS-CoV-2 (or detects other coronaviruses along with SARS-CoV-2). It is important to remember that:
- A positive result means you may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
- Serologic test results cannot tell you if you currently have COVID-19.
- Serologic test results do not not tell you if you are infectious with COVID-19.
- A positive test does not mean you are immune to COVID-19, cannot get COVID-19, or that you do not need to practice infection control measures when around someone who is sick.
Serologic testing is beneficial at the population level for public health practitioners to inform policy and planning decisions. However, most experts agree it is not beneficial at the individual-level to tell a person whether or not they have COVID-19 or if they are immune to COVID-19.
Treatment and Care
There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection. People infected with COVID-19 may receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions. Individuals with COVID-19 should:
- Consider the use of over-the-counter medications to reduce symptoms of fever, coughing, and congestion;
- Reserve emergency room visits for serious illness and medical emergencies like injuries, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and altered levels of consciousness; and
- Call your medical provider before visiting the office. Most otherwise healthy individuals with mild respiratory symptoms may not need to see a medical provider.
Information for patients and caregivers about hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are being used inappropriately to treat non-hospitalized patients for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or to prevent that disease. Be aware that there are no proven treatments for COVID-19 and no vaccine. If you are receiving hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 and experience irregular heartbeats, dizziness, or fainting, seek medical attention right away by calling 911.
Patients taking hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for FDA-approved indications to treat malaria or autoimmune conditions should continue taking their medicine as prescribed. The benefits of these medicines outweigh the risks at the recommended doses for these conditions. Do not stop taking your medicine without first talking to your health care professional, and talk to them if you have any questions or concerns.
Do not buy these medicines from online pharmacies without a prescription from your health care professional. Consumers should not take any form of chloroquine that has not been prescribed for them by a healthcare professional. Serious poisoning and death have been reported after mistaken use of a chloroquine product not intended to be taken by humans. If you have these medicines in your home, keep them in childproof containers out of the reach of children to prevent accidental poisoning