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What you need to know about COVID-19 testing

November 19, 2020
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With COVID-19 cases increasing in Massachusetts and across the United States, testing continues to play a critical role in stopping the spread. At Baystate Health, we are hosting COVID-19 testing sites in western Massachusetts, testing referred patients with and without COVID-19 symptoms.

Testing for patients with COVID-19 symptoms

The CDC includes the following in their list of COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms.

Getting an Appointment

We offer both drive-in testing by appointment for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms. Your provider must give you a referral for testing in order for you to make an appointment.

If you don’t have a primary care provider, you can contact urgent care.

Getting Tested: Viral vs. Antibody Tests

At designated Baystate Health testing locations, we conduct viral tests for COVID-19, which means a provider will swab your nose to find out if you have a current infection. This is different from an antibody test, which can show if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibody tests are not used to diagnose COVID-19.

When you come for testing, you will remain seated in your car. A staff member will come out to you. 

Before collecting a sample, a clinical staff member will first wash their hands properly. They will then put on protective clothing and a mask and face shield.

Your testing sample will be collected through a nasal swab. Here's what to expect:

  1. The staff member taking your sample will instruct you to tilt your head back.
  2. They will carefully insert the swab into your nostril until meeting resistance (less than one inch into the nostril). They will then rotate the swab for 10-15 seconds against the nasal wall before removing from your nostril.
  3. Using the same swab, they will carefully insert the swab into your other nostril and repeat the same process.
  4. After swabbing, the specimen is placed in a container for testing. 

After you are tested, the clinical staff will give you instructions on next steps.

Getting Your Results

After swabbing your nose, we will send the specimen sample to the laboratory for testing. Your provider will contact you about your results as soon as possible, usually within 72 hours. The laboratory will report your results to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

After You Get Your Results

If you test positive for COVID-19, it is important to know what steps you should take to prevent your illness from spreading.

The CDC recommends:

  • Staying home except to get medical care
  • Separating yourself from other people
  • Monitoring your symptoms

Be sure to follow care instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department.

If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected when your sample was collected. This does not mean you will not get sick. It is important to continue practicing preventive measures, including social distancing, to protect yourself and others.

Learn more

See our testing locations and hours, and for more see our testing FAQ.

Here's a look behind the scenes at one of our testing sites: