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Coronavirus Testing

Save Time in the Line

You do not need a doctor's note or an appointment for any of the District’s walk-up testing sites. But to save time in line, first visit coronavirus.dc.gov/register to create a profile from your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

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 (PDF).

Specimen Collection for Molecular Testing

The following are acceptable upper respiratory specimens for submission:

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 Aptima Specimen Transfer Tube [Cat No. PRD-05110 or 301154C (green label)].
  • Oropharyngeal (OP) swab in VTM, UTM or Aptima Multitest Swab Specimen Collection Kit [Cat. No. PRD-03546 (orange label)]
  • Nasal swab in VTM, UTM or Aptima Multitest Swab Specimen Collection Kit [Cat. No. PRD-03546 (orange label)]

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.

A healthcare facility that requires swabs or transport media should contact the DC DFS PHL via email ([email protected]) to request collection supplies. Please indicate how many kits you require in the email. Swabs and transport media should only be used for testing conducted at DFS PHL.

2. 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.

After collecting the specimen, please use scissors to cut the swab so that it can fit inside the transport media tube. Once the swab has been cut, please disinfect the scissors to ensure that there is no cross contamination from one sample to the next. For a list of disinfectants effective in inactivating SARS-CoV2, please refer to the EPA approved list below. (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2).

ESwabs in Amies media are not a valid specimen type for COVID-19 testing.

Specimen Collection for Serology (IgG) Testing

Collect at least 5 mL of blood in a plastic serum separator tube (SST). Gold top tubes with gel serum separator, preferred. Centrifuge the SST according to blood collection manufacturer's instructions for separation of serum from whole blood. Please refrigerate SST at 2-8ᵒC after centrifuging the specimen. Please do not freeze the tubes as it will result in hemolysis which is not recommended for testing.

Specimen Storage

All specimens collected for molecular testing 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.

All specimens collected for serology testing must be refrigerated at (2-8ᵒC) promptly after collection and couriered/shipped on cold packs within 5 days of collection. Specimens being held for >5 days must be stored at -20ᵒC and couriered/shipped on dry ice.

Please do not freeze specimens if courier pickup will occur within 24 hours. It is very important that you contact [email protected] as soon as the specimen is collected so that a courier can be ordered to pick up the specimen.

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) (PDF)
  2. COVID-19 Test Requisition Form (PDF)

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

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 email [email protected] using the following template to request a courier:

  • Sample type (NP/OP)
  • Storage conditions (refrigerated/frozen)
  • Name of Facility
  • Address of Facility (including the room number)
  • Point of Contact
  • Point of Contact Phone Number

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]