Everything you need to know about COVID-19 testing

Introduction

The ability to accurately identify whether individuals are at risk for, infected with, or have an immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is essential to address the COVID-19 pandemic from both a personal and a public health perspective. Reliable testing is critical for:

  • Determining the state of an individual’s immune response to exposure.
  • Assessing whether an individual is contagious and needs to be quarantined.
  • Deciding if an individual is immune and can return to society without undue risk.
  • Facilitating contact tracing to reduce viral spread.
  • Determining the prevalence and natural history of this novel disease.

The purpose of this document is to help clinicians understand the important issues regarding testing, including:

  • The types of testing available.
  • Assessment of the reliability of these tests.
  • Using test results to provide a framework for clinical decision–making for patients.

The understanding of SARS-CoV-2 is continually evolving as more is learned about the virus and the host’s response to exposure and infection. Testing is also evolving as this greater understanding is combined with rapid advances in technology to create tests for both the virus and the immune response.

The clinician on the front lines of this pandemic will find this document helpful to understand which tests are currently available, what circumstances warrant their use, and how to interpret and act on the results. This document will also help clinicians to have an understanding of testing methodologies, validation processes, and the regulatory environment necessary to assess new tests as they become available.

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