4 COVID-19 Test Types And How They Work

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: April 27, 2020

Testing is a critical initiative in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as predicting timing and impact of the virus. With more than 1 million cases reported in the U.S. alone, companies are developing new testing opportunities to present to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) each day. We at Kroger Health are excited to be on the frontlines of drive-thru testing roll out in several states, giving thousands of Americans the opportunity to check for infection, and potentially help prevent exposure to others. Whether you are feeling the onset of symptoms or have already weathered the COVID-19 storm, there may be a test that can either help you determine your next steps or help others get well faster.
  1. In-Office Diagnostic Testing.
    Whether you are caring for someone who has COVID-19 or are beginning to show symptoms yourself, it may be a good idea to pursue further testing, mainly if you are in a high-risk category. Molecular tests, which look for active signs of the virus, were the first types to be used by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to diagnose COVID-19. The molecular tests typically use nose or throat swabs for sample collection and can be administered by a doctor, physician’s assistant, registered nurse, and now, in some states, a licensed pharmacist. Recently, a saliva-based test was developed, which, in a study conducted by Yale University, was found to be more sensitive to detecting the virus than a nasopharyngeal test. Evaluation is still ongoing. Additionally, an increase in saliva testing could potentially help to combat the current shortage of testing swabs as well as the discomfort of some swab-based tests.
  2. Drive-Thru Diagnostic Testing.
    To support recommended social distancing and to limit potential exposure, drive-thru testing sites are quickly rolling out across the country, and, in many cases, are operating by appointment only to reduce wait times and unnecessary testing. Most centers are prioritizing healthcare workers, first responders, and high-risk populations, particularly those who have been in contact with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19. Potential carriers can remain in their vehicles while self-administering testing kits. Samples are then collected by registered nurses or pharmacists and either sent to diagnostic labs, or, in some cases, processed on-site to generate more immediate results. Kroger is leading the way in the nationwide rollout of drive-thru COVID-19 testing. You can check with your state and local health departments to locate testing sites if we have not yet reached your location.
  3. At-Home Diagnostic Testing.
    Just this week, LabCorp announced that they received FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to make the first at-home testing kits available. Collection kits, which they are calling Pixel by LabCorp, are initially available to healthcare workers and first responders, prioritizing the limited quantities to likely exposed individuals before becoming available to the public. Kits include a sterile nasal swab and saline, which patients can self-administer, place into the insulated package, and return to LabCorp. Results are available online or can be sent to your doctor.
  4. Antibody Testing.
    With roughly 100,000 reported recovered cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., the question of returning to a sense of normalcy is something the FDA is tackling head on. Antibody tests, also known as serological tests, may be able to give insight into who has been previously infected and developed antibodies that could protect them from future infection. The FDA is also currently engaging in the exploratory treatment potential of using plasma from previously infected COVID-19 patients to treat those who are seriously ill. Antibody testing may also determine if someone who has had the virus is eligible to donate plasma to patients involved in these clinical trials. As a blood test is required to check for antibodies, serological tests are performed in clinical office settings by a physician or nurse practitioner. Research is ongoing to understand how effective these tests are, and how to best use them on a larger scale.

Gaining information to understand more about the pandemic is critical in combating the virus and returning to a sense of normalcy. Whether you are feeling unwell or are on the other side of the curve, there may be a testing opportunity for you. To stay updated about COVID-19 testing opportunities in your area, please visit krogerhealth.com.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.