How COVID-19 Testing in Georgia Works
Types of COVID-19 Tests:
There are two different types of tests for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests. The results for each test can mean different things about your COVID-19 status.
Viral Tests for COVID-19 (Tests for current infection):
Viral tests identify the virus in samples from your respiratory system, such as swabs from the inside of your nose.
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR):
- This test detects genetic material (RNA) that is a part of the virus.
- This is the best test to determine if you currently have COVID-19. If you test positive, this means you have a current COVID-19 infection.
- Antigen Test:
- This test detects viral protein that is part of the virus.
- This test also detects current infections of COVID-19, but are slightly less reliable than the PCR tests.
- See here to learn what your viral test results mean: https://dph.georgia.gov/document/document/how-do-i-interpret-my-test/download
- See more about viral tests for COVID-19 here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/diagnostic-testing.html
Antibody Tests for COVID-19 (Tests for past infection):
Antibody tests check your blood for antibodies.
- Antibody tests can show if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies are disease specific proteins, produced by your body that help fight off infections.
- Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose COVID-19. To see if you are currently infected, you need a viral test.
- If this test is positive, you may have had an infection with COVID-19 in the past, but may not be currently infected. Some of these tests also may detect antibodies your body made in response to other common coronaviruses that cause the common cold and not COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/types.html).
- We do not know yet if having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 can protect someone from getting infected again or, if they do, how long this protection might last.
- We don’t fully understand how a body reacts to COVID-19 at this time. Some people who have been infected may not make antibodies or they may lose those antibodies over time.
- You must consider all these things if you wish to receive an antibody test.
- Regardless of whether you test positive or negative, the results do not confirm whether or not you are able to spread the virus that causes COVID-19.
- See more about antibody tests for COVID-19 here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/serology-overview.html
More information about testing can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/index.html
There are many ways to be tested for COVID-19 in Georgia.
At your doctor’s office:
- You can seek a COVID-19 test at your doctor’s office. This may be a PCR test, an antigen test or an antibody test. The time it takes for your test to come back may vary depending on the lab your doctor uses.
At a Specimen Point of Collection Site (SPOCs):
- You can seek a COVID-19 test at a SPOC – these sites are associated with the Department of Public Health. You can make an appointment through the DPH website at https://dph.georgia.gov/covidtesting
- These tests will be a PCR test. Regardless of your results, you should consider your health and exposure history in conjunction with your results. You can find more information on this at: How Do I Interpret My Test?
At a Drive Through Clinic:
- You can seek a COVID-19 test at a rapid drive through clinic. Testing through these facilities are coordinated with the organization (DPH cannot help to arrange a test for you or provide your results to you). Please refer to the organization’s websites for details about arranging a test and determining what type of test is performed. For rapid tests, results are typically given at the time of test, but this is up to the organization administering the test and providing results.
Updated June 23, 2020