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COVID-19 Testing Q & A With Noble County Health Commissioner Shawn Ray

Submitted by: Shawn Ray, MPH, RS

Health Commissioner

Noble County Health Department


COVID-19 tests are now becoming more available at hospitals, clinics, commercial, and public health laboratories. They detect different aspects of the disease. There are two main types of COVID-19 tests. One type of test tells you if you have the virus now while the other tells if you had it in the past. While testing guidelines and technology are regularly developing, here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 tests.


PCR tests

Q: What are they?

A: These tests detect if someone is actively infected with the coronavirus.


Q: How do they work? Are they reliable?

A: They typically involve a swab sample from the nose or throat and detection of genetic material from the coronavirus. The test requires the presence of the virus, which means it is most accurate after the infection level has increased. These tests are generally very reliable. But it’s possible that a test result may come back “negative” due to problems with swab sampling. Perhaps the sample didn’t get enough material, or it was taken when the viral load had not reached detectable levels.


Q: Who should get one?

A: People actively showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing, fever or shortness of breath should contact their medical providers to see if they should get tested.


Q: Where can I get one?

A: Tests are provided in a variety of locations, including hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices. Individuals should contact their primary care provider for testing protocols and availability. The Ohio Department of Health has a section on the website, Testing and Community Health Centers, to help find sites near you.


Antibody tests

Q: What are they?

A: These tests detect if someone was previously infected with the coronavirus.


Q: How do they work? How reliable are they?

A: They require a blood sample to detect antibodies to the coronavirus. Because it takes time for the immune system to generate antibodies, these tests are most accurate weeks after infection. The performance of commercial antibody tests varies greatly. Some of these tests do not differentiate between coronaviruses that have been here for some time and the COVID-19 virus causing today’s pandemic. It is not known yet if having antibodies to the virus can protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.


Q: Who should get one?

A: This test is primarily for public health surveillance and research to understand the coronavirus spread. While a positive result indicates that antibodies were produced in response to a past infection, researchers are still learning whether these antibodies provide future immunity — and if so, for how long.


Again, if you feel that you are possibly ill, showing the symptoms, contact your primary care provider now to determine if your provider should order testing for you.



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