Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates for UC San Diego Health patients and visitors. Learn More

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COVID-19 Testing and Screening

If you think you need to be tested for COVID-19, we have set up a dedicated COVID-19 nurse line for UC San Diego Health patients: 800-926-8273. This phone line is staffed Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on weekends and holidays).

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, we recommend talking to your primary care physician or calling the nurse line to discuss your symptoms before coming to any hospital or clinic. The symptoms of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) include fever, a new cough, new shortness of breath or a recent loss of taste or smell.

Symptoms of COVID-19 inforgraphic

Coronavirus Screening Process

When you call, a nurse will ask a series of questions to evaluate your potential risk for COVID-19 infection. Depending on your answers, you could be directed to one of these options:

  • A video visit with one of our providers
  • COVID-19 testing at a drive-up location
  • An Urgent Care clinic or the Emergency Department (ER) for an in-person evaluation

COVID Testing and Follow-Up Care

If you are directed to one of our drive-up coronavirus testing locations in San Diego County, you will get information on where to park your vehicle along with a separate phone number to call the team when you arrive. A nurse or provider will meet you at your vehicle, give you a mask, and perform the necessary evaluation and testing.

A health care professional will call you with your test results, usually within 24 hours. While waiting for your results, isolate yourself at home and avoid contact with other people.

If you test positive for COVID-19 and have mild to moderate symptoms, you will be offered a referral to our COVID-19 Telemedicine Clinic, where you can schedule video visits or telephone consults with an infectious disease specialist. These specialists will monitor your health and refer you to any other specialists you may need. Hospitalization is usually not required unless you develop severe symptoms.

COVID-19 Testing FAQs

1. Can anyone be tested for the coronavirus?

Your health care provider will make the decision on whether you need to be tested, depending on your symptoms and any conditions that may put you at higher risk. Because of limited supplies, we are prioritizing testing for:

  • UC San Diego Health patients with symptoms of COVID-19, especially those with conditions that put them at higher risk
  • Patients or employees who suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19
  • Hospitalized patients
  • Patients who are scheduled for surgery or procedures in our facilities
  • Health care workers at our facilities
  • Students and trainees at our facilities
  • Health care workers at selected skilled nursing facilities (in collaboration with San Diego Public Health)
  • First responders

2. What is the difference between PCR and antibody testing?

There are two types of tests for SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Here's how testing is done:

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing uses a nasal or oral swab to detect the virus itself and indicates an active infection or a very recent infection. If you are having symptoms of active infection, such as cough and fever, the PCR test can be used to detect the virus and diagnose COVID-19. 
  • Antibody testing (or serology testing) is a blood test that looks for a person's immune response to the virus. Antibodies are proteins made by the body to fight off viruses and other pathogens that cause infections. If antibodies are found after testing, this suggests you have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, even if you were asymptomatic and didn’t have symptoms. The antibody test gives information about prior COVID-19 exposures, and is more useful after symptoms have resolved.

3. Is UC San Diego Health offering antibody testing in San Diego County?

UC San Diego Health is able to perform antibody testing. Our current focus is on testing our front-line health care workers as well as UC San Diego Health patients as recommended by their providers. If you think you need antibody testing, please discuss it with your health care provider.

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