COVID-19 Testing

As new information becomes available this page will continue to be updated. Check back once in a while! 🙂

Some COVID-19 Testing is Now Available Without a Doctor’s Order

For some, COVID-19 testing is now available without a referral from a health care provider.  There are two types of tests: COVID-19 testing, and antibody testing, and the two tests are accessed differently.

1.) HAVE AN ACTIVE CASE? GET A DIAGNOSTIC PCR (polymerase chain reaction) TEST for COVID-19 

Regardless of your insurance status, if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, are over age 60, have an underlying health condition, or you believe you may have been exposed to an infected person, you can, and should, get tested.

These tests look for the presence of the live virus. If you have the live virus, whether you have symptoms or not, you can pass the virus on to others, so you must self-isolate until the virus has run its course. Bear in mind that this test only tells you if you have the active virus right now. It does not tell you if you have already had it, and if you test negative, there is always the possibility that you may become infected at any time after taking the test. These tests may return as much as 30-40% false negatives; if you are tested, and it comes back negative, you still might have the disease.

2.) WANT TO SEE IF YOU ONCE HAD THE VIRUS AND NOW HAVE ANTIBODIES? GET AN ANTIBODY TEST

Unlike the diagnostic tests that look for active infections, antibody testing can tell you were previously infected with the virus and have since recovered. The presence of certain antibodies can be a sign that your body has already had an immune response to COVID-19.

These tests look for the presence of antibodies, which are the body’s defenses against the virus. There are many qualifiers to determine if you should have this test. First, the tests have been rushed into production, for obvious reasons, but they are not as accurate as we would like them to be. There are a high number of false negatives, and a higher number of false positives. This means that if you test positive for antibodies, it could be a false positive, and you may not have the antibodies at all. Second, and this is important, even if you do have the antibodies, this only means that you have contracted the virus at some point. It does NOT mean that you are now immune to getting the virus again. The COVID-19 virus is so new that we just do not know yet if antibodies give you real immunity to the disease, and we certainly do not know how long that immunity will last, if it does exist. Only time will answer those questions. In the meantime, if you take the test, please keep up your vigilance, your distancing, and your masks.

Why Do We Need Antibody Tests for COVID-19 and How to Interpret Test Results?

A fairly scientific article, but still worth reading if you want to learn more.

 

Where do I go and what do I do?

COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing: Who Qualifies?

Regardless of your insurance status, if you feel you need a COVID-19 diagnostic test, you probably can get one now. You should have no out-of-pocket expense. If you are insured, your coverage will pay the full cost with no deductible. If you are uninsured, the state can cover the full cost of your test.

If you have a regular doctor, he or she can arrange a test for you, but that is no longer a requirement. You qualify for testing if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • COVID-19 symptom, (now only one symptom* will qualify you)
  • Healthcare worker
  • Childcare worker*
  • 60 years old or more
  • Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Immunocompromised
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Live with someone who meets the above criteria.*

(*Changes announced on May 20, effective May 26)

NOW: ANYONE can get tested!

Where do I go for Diagnostic Testing?

NH DHHS has released this list of locations where you can get PCR testing: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/covid19/documents/covid-testing-options.pdf

NH’s Community-Based COVID-19 Testing Program

If you don’t have a PCP —or if your doctor isn’t available—you can arrange to be tested at one of a number of locations that are part of NH’s Community-Based COVID-19 Testing Program. Most of the locations that are part of NH’s Community-Based COVID-19 Testing Program are inconvenient to Salem. However, on May 20, the Governor announced two more fixed locations that are doing diagnostic testing, including one in Londonderry.  There are currently ten drive-through testing locations throughout the state, with occasional temporary locations.

Before you go, you must sign up for an appointment; do not just show up at a test site. There are three ways to do it:

  • Complete and submit the online form. Once you fill out the form, you will be contacted about an appointment.)
  • Email covidtesting@dhhs.nh.gov, or
  • Call the COVID-19 Coordinating Office at 603-271-5980.

Convenient MD

Convenient MD has a state contract to offer the COVID-19 test. The nearest test site to Salem is in Windham, right by I-93, Exit 3. I spoke with someone on ConvenientMD’s switchboard, who confirmed that they are doing COVID-19 diagnostic testing and antibody testing. I was told that you will have to be prescreened before getting diagnostic testing; antibody testing has to be authorized by your PCP. The NH locations will charge your insurance, if you have coverage, but there are no out-of-pocket charges for NH residents that are tested in New Hampshire. (Verify first!) You do have to be prescreened to get an appointment for testing. ConvenientMD has 10 locations across the state, including the one in Windham. (125 Indian Rock Road. 603-890-6330). You can sign up on their website to pre-register for an appointment.

ExpressMed

On May 16, the Governor announced that another healthcare facility will be offering COVID-19 testing and antibody testing in Salem and Manchester. However, in calls to ExpressMed at both their Salem and Manchester airport locations, I was told that if you do not have a PCP or insurance, you will have to be seen by their physician, to be preapproved to get a test that will cost $9

Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth

Manchester Public Health and Nashua Public Health are running separate test sites for residents of those communities.

ConvenientMD is also offering COVID-19 testing at a drive-through location at Pease Tradeport for a slightly narrower group of people, including anyone currently displaying symptoms as well for asymptomatic health care workers and first responders. As with the Community Testing Program, the state will cover the cost of your testing arranged through ConvenientMD if you don’t have health insurance. You can find more info here. To arrange a test at this location, contact ConvenientMD at 603-570-2800 or complete the pre-registration form at https://convenientmd.com/patient-pre-registration-form/.

LabCorp
I am told that “LabCorp is also offering the Covid-19 IgG test (to measure prior infection) and it can be ordered on their website with a $10 fee for the physicians who are overseeing the test. Insurance is accepted, and if someone doesn’t have insurance, it still only costs $10 to the patient (the state is paying the balance.)”

Antibody Testing:

ClearChoice MD has a contract with the State of NH to do antibody testing. There are no specifications as to who may be tested. They do not take appointments, but you can reserve a place in line by going to their COVID-19 page. ClearChoice MD accepts insurance; if your insurance does not cover the test, the CCMD offices in New Hampshire offer the test to NH residents at no charge. ClearChoice MD does not have a location convenient to Salem. The nearest ClearChoice MD locations to Salem are in Hooksett (32min, 29.9mi), Epping (34min; 22.3mi), Goffstown (37min; 31.3mi), or Portsmouth (38min, 34.7mi),

Quest Diagnostics also offers antibody testing. Their website gives some info to help decide if you want to – or are ready – to have antibody testing. My sister, a nurse practitioner in NH, says, “Quest labs are doing testing and waiving fees if no insurance or insurance won’t cover, but you need a PCP order.” If you do now wish to go through a PCP,  you can order the test yourself, and pay $119.00.


Giving Credit where Credit is Due:

There is no point in reinventing the wheel.  The above info was adapted and modified, with permission, from the websites of State Rep. Lucy McVitty Weber (D, Cheshire – District 1, Walpole),  and State Rep David Meuse (D, Rockingham 29, Portsmouth). These Reps provided this info to their constituents.

This is what a State Rep should do.


Edited to add:

Concerns about the Abbott Rapid Response Test.

This test can give up to 40% false negatives. A medical lab technician wrote “I realize that people want answers quickly, especially with COVID. However, I wish people would understand that PCR testing (Polymerase Chain Reaction) is the gold standard. It takes time (hours instead of minutes), but it gives you the most accurate result. Yes, with the CDC fast-tracking the testing through makes it a lot less accurate, but it is the absolute best way to do it.” Read more.


Before you rush out to get tested:

Read this article: “Just Because You Test Positive for Antibodies Doesn’t Mean You Have Them.”


Is it worth getting tested? How soon is too soon?

Here’s a scientific article from the well-respected JAMA.
(You can click on the chart to enlarge)

The pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to affect much of the world. Knowledge of diagnostic tests for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is still evolving, and a clear understanding of the nature of the tests and interpretation of their findings is important. This Viewpoint describes how to interpret 2 types of diagnostic tests commonly in use for SARS-CoV-2 infections—reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and IgM and IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)—and how the results may vary over time. Read more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *