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With Mayor Bowser adjusting the District of Columbia’s operating status in response to coronavirus (COVID-19), District residents may file for unemployment compensation. More information on how to file available at Recovery

COVID-19 Specimen Submission Guidelines

This page is only for healthcare providers.

Specimen Collection for Healthcare Providers

Please review guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure the appropriate infection control precautions are in place before collecting any specimens. You can also download a copy of these guidelines.

Acceptable specimen types for collection:

  1. Upper Respiratory Specimens
    • The following are acceptable upper respiratory specimens for submission:
      • Nasopharyngeal (NP) swab only in viral transport media (VTM) or Universal Transport Media (UTM)

OR

  • Combined NP swab and Oropharyngeal (OP) swab in VTM or UTM. Once the NP swab is collected, place it in VTM/UTM, swirl it in the media for a few seconds and break off the shaft. Next, collect the OP swab, place it in the same VTM as the NP swab, swirl it for a few seconds and break off the shaft. Please screw of the lid of the vial tightly.

Please see the video for additional instructions on NP swab collection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVJNWefmHjE

Swab specimens should be collected using only swabs with a synthetic tip, such as nylon or Dacron, and an aluminum or plastic shaft. Calcium alginate swabs are unacceptable and swabs with cotton tips and wooden shafts are not recommended.

ESwabs in Amies media are not a valid specimen type for COVID-19 testing. A hospital or clinic that requires swabs or UTM should contact the DC Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) Public Health Lab (PHL) via email at [email protected].

  1. Lower Respiratory Specimens
    • Sputum - Have the patient rinse the mouth with water and then expectorate deep cough directly into a sterile, leak-proof, screw-cap sputum collection cup or a sterile dry container.
    • Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) - Collect 2-3 mL into a sterile, leak-proof, screw-cap sputum collection cup or sterile dry container.

Serum is only collected if the patient tests positive for COVID-19 and so is no longer required for screening. Additional specimens may be requested on a case by case basis.

Specimen Storage

All specimens must be refrigerated (2-8ᵒC) promptly after collection and couriered/shipped on cold packs within 72 hours. Specimens being held for >72 hours must be stored at -70ᵒC and couriered/shipped on dry ice.

Required Form 

Any specimen being sent through the DC DFS PHL must have the following paperwork accommodating the specimen:

  1. DC DFS PHL External Chain of Custody (CoC)
  2. DC DFS PHL Test Requisition Form

All paperwork can additionally be found on DC DFS PHL’s website under forms and documents.

Additionally, a person under investigation (PUI) form must be completed by the requesting healthcare provider for all COVID-19 testing, and must be completed to receive results. All forms will be provided to the requesting health care provider by the epidemiologist at the time of approval.

Only one DC DFS PHL test requisition form and one chain of custody for each set of specimens is required for testing. Please ensure that all specimens submitted and their respective test requisition form has the following information on it:

  • Full name of patient
  • Date of birth
  • Unique patient identifier (e.g., medical record number, patient ID, PUI #)
  • Date and time of specimen collection

Incorrectly labeled requisitions and specimens will result in testing delays.

Courier Request

Once specimens are ready for pick up and the appropriate paperwork is completed, please call the following numbers to request a courier:

  • Phone: (202) 727-8656 (Monday-Friday 8:30 am-5:30 pm)
  • Phone: (202) 868-6561 (After-hours)

An address (including the room number), PUI number, point-of-contact name and phone number and the specimen storage temperature will be required to dispatch a courier for specimen pick-up. Do NOT include patient identifiers in the body of the email. 

Questions?

Please contact the DC Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) Public Health Laboratory for any questions pertaining to testing:

  • Phone: (202) 727-8956 (Monday-Friday from 8:30 am-5:30 pm) 
  • Phone: (202) 868-6561 (After-hours)
  • Fax: (202) 481-3936
  • Email: [email protected]