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 are a UC San Diego Health patient and think you need to be tested for COVID-19, please call 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 the novel coronavirus infection, 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 include fever, a new cough, new shortness of breath or a recent loss of taste or smell. For a complete and updated list of symptoms, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s COVID-19 symptoms page.

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 one of our infectious disease specialists. The specialist 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 primary care provider will make the decision on whether you need to be tested, depending on your symptoms and any medical conditions that may put you at higher risk.

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

A PCR test is a diagnostic test. It tests for an active infection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. An antibody test is designed to tell if you’ve ever had COVID-19. Antibody tests are useful for understanding how many people in our community have been exposed to the virus already.& Here's more on 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?

We have the ability 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.