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Testing FAQs

This list of frequently asked questions may save you a phone call to the COVID hotline.

Types of Tests and How They Work

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What is the difference between a saliva test and a nasopharyngeal (NP) test?

The saliva test involves swabbing your mouth to collect saliva for testing. The nasopharyngeal (NP) test involves a swab inserted into your nose to collect material for testing.

Is the saliva swab test as accurate as the nasopharyngeal (NP) test?

The saliva test is as accurate as the nasopharyngeal (NP) test. Both tests use a lab technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect genetic material of the virus, which is the gold standard.

My child has special needs and can’t do the nasal swab test. Are there other options?

If your child cannot have a nasopharyngeal (NP) test, please let Upstate’s patient access team know when you call to make an appointment, and they will work with you to find a testing location that best meets your needs.

I have sinus and nasal problems and can’t do a nasal swab test. Are there other options?

If you have a condition and cannot have a nasopharyngeal (NP) test, please let Upstate’s patient access team know when you call to make an appointment and they will work with you to find a testing location that best meets your needs.

Does the nasopharyngeal (NP) test hurt?

Some individuals might find the nasopharyngeal (NP) test to be uncomfortable.

What is antibody testing?

An antibody test looks for the presence of antibodies, which are specific proteins made in response to infections. Antibodies can be found in the blood of people who are tested after infection and show that people have had an immune response to the infection. Antibody test results are especially important for detecting previous infections with few or no symptoms. We do not know, however, if the antibodies that result from SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus) infection will provide someone with immunity from future infection.


The Testing Process

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How do I get tested for COVID-19?

Anyone can now get tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether you have symptoms.

  • Upstate Testing Location: Individuals who need a COVID-19 test can make an appointment for a nasopharyngeal (NP) test at the Upstate COVID clinic at the New York State Fairgrounds. There are several options for making appointments at these locations:
    • through MyChart: Sign into your active MyChart account and self-schedule a test (you cannot self-schedule for a same-day test).
    • by Email: You may email CovidTesting@upstate.edu and include your legal name, date of birth and phone number. You will receive a call back to schedule and register for your test.
    • by Phone - Call 315-464-2778, press 0 and follow prompts (Please note that this line is very busy).
  • Syracuse Community Health Center: Please contact SCHC at 315-476-7921 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Additional information can be found on the SCHC website: https://www.schcny.com/?page_id=1497 
  • Primary Care Offices: Testing is also available at primary care offices. Contact your primary care provider for questions about testing or contact the Upstate Triage line at 315-464-3979. If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, please call 911.

  • Other Testing Locations Near You: search for a test site near you

How do I prepare for the test?

  • Nasopharyngeal (NP) test: No preparation is needed.
  • Saliva test: You should not brush your teeth or use mouth wash for at least three hours before the test, nor should you eat, drink, smoke or vape for at least 30 minutes before the test.

How long does it take to do the swab?

  • Nasopharyngeal (NP) test: The nasopharyngeal (NP) test takes a few seconds.
  • Saliva test: The saliva test requires your mouth to be swabbed for about 10-15 seconds to collect enough saliva.

Is the testing a drive-thru, or do I have to go inside?

The following is a drive-thru testing site:

  • Upstate COVID Clinic at the New York State Fairgrounds

In-school proactive testing

  • Onondaga County is visiting different school districts Monday-Friday each week to provide proactive asymptomatic testing to faculty and staff.

If I have antibodies, does that mean I am immune to the virus?

Based on our knowledge of how the body reacts to an infection, we presume that the presence of antibodies could mean that you have some level of immunity to a virus. However, at this time, it is unclear whether the presence of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) Immunoglobulin G antibodies will result in immunity to prevent future COVID-19 infections. We will better understand immunity to SARS-CoV-2 as we study what happens to people who test positive for the antibodies and are again exposed to SARS-CoV-2, to determine whether any of them are confirmed to have new infections.


Who Should Get Tested

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Who should be tested for COVID-19?

Anyone can get tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether you have symptoms. It is especially important to get tested when:

  • An individual is symptomatic or has a history of symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever, cough and/or trouble breathing), particularly if the individual is 70 years of age or older, the individual has a weakened immune system, or the individual has an underlying health condition); or
  • An individual has had close (that is, within 6 feet) or fairly close contact with a person known to be positive with COVID-19; or
  • An individual is subject to a precautionary or mandatory quarantine; or
  • An individual is employed as a health care worker, first responder or other essential worker who directly interacts with the public while working.

What if I need COVID testing before undergoing a medical procedure?

Please note that:

  • A parent or the patient is responsible for obtaining the test and results.
  • You need the test and results in 72 hours or less.
  • Surgery centers may not be fully informed about where to get tested or what the process is for scheduling a test.
  • Upstate Procedures: Patients who are scheduled for a procedure at Upstate who need to be tested should make an appointment at the Upstate clinic at the New York State Fairgrounds. There are several options for making an appointment for pre-procedural testing:
    • Your surgeon's office can assist you with making an appointment.
    • Sign into your active MyChart account and self-schedule a test (you cannot self-schedule for a same-day test).
    • You may email CovidTesting@upstate.edu and include your legal name, date of birth and phone number. You will receive a call back to schedule and register for your test.
    • Call 315-464-2778, press zero and follow the prompts (this line is very busy).
  • Other Testing Locations: If you need a COVID test, please see the section on Scheduling appointments.

I need a test for travel purposes or to visit a family member in a nursing home.

If you need a COVID test, please see the section on Scheduling appointments.

Should I get antibody testing? Where can I get it?

If you would like to receive antibody testing, please contact your primary care provider. Please keep in mind the following:

  • The offered test may not have been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Negative results do not rule out COVID-19 infection.
  • A positive antibody test result does not mean you have immunity against the virus.

Where to Get Tested

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Where can I get tested? What are the types of test available at each location? Are there mobile testing sites outside of Onondaga County in Central New York?

  • Upstate Locations: You can be tested at the following Upstate drive-thru location:
    • Upstate COVID Clinic at the New York State Fairgrounds, 581 State Fair Blvd., Gate 2, for a nasopharyngeal (NP) test.
  • Syracuse Community Health Center: Please contact SCHC at 315-476-7921 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Additional information can be found on the SCHC website: https://www.schcny.com/?page_id=1497 

  • Primary Care Offices: Testing is also available at primary care offices. Contact your primary care provider for questions about testing or contact the Upstate Triage line at 315-464-3979. If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, please call 911.

  • Other Testing Locations Near You: search for a test site near you

Scheduling Appointments

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How do I set up an appointment? I can’t seem to get through to make a reservation.

  • Upstate Testing Location: There are several options for making appointments at an Upstate testing location:
    • through MyChart: Sign into your active MyChart account and self-schedule a test (you cannot self-schedule for a same-day test).
    • by Email: You may email CovidTesting@upstate.edu and include your legal name, date of birth and phone number. You will receive a call back to schedule and register for your test.
    • by Phone - Call 315-464-2778, press 0 and follow prompts (Please note that this line is very busy).
  • Syracuse Community Health Center: Please contact SCHC at 315-476-7921 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Additional information can be found on the SCHC website: https://www.schcny.com/?page_id=1497 

  • Primary Care Offices: Testing is also available at primary care offices. Contact your primary care provider for questions about testing or contact the Upstate Triage line at 315-464-3979. If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, please call 911.

What about future appointments?

  • Upstate Testing Location: If you need to schedule another appointment in the future at an Upstate Testing location, you can use the hotline (315-464-2582, option 4), or you can send an email to covidtesting@upstate.edu with your name and a phone number to call you back about setting one up.
  • Other Testing Locations; If you were tested at a different location, contact that location regarding scheduling another appointment.

Cost of Testing

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Where can I get a free COVID test?

Upstate patients who receive a COVID test at any Upstate location will not be billed. Upstate will bill your insurance only. Upstate will not bill you for the amount not paid by your insurance company. If you do not have insurance, you will not be billed for the COVID test.

Why did I get a bill if testing is supposed to be free?

If tested at an Upstate location, you may receive a statement from your insurance company showing a balance owed to Upstate, however Upstate will not bill you for amounts not paid by your insurance company.

Is there a cost if I am asymptomatic and get tested?

If you've potentially been exposed either by another individual or by traveling to a state on the New York state travel ban list, you will not be billed for the COVID test if tested at an Upstate location.


Possible Exposure/Quarantining

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I had a possible exposure to COVID and am not sure what to do.

If you have had a possible exposure, you can make an appointment for testing at the following locations:

  • Upstate Testing Location: Testing is available at the Upstate clinic at the New York State Fairgrounds. There are several options for making an appointment:
    • through MyChart: Sign into your active MyChart account and self-schedule a test (you cannot self-schedule for a same-day test).
    • by Email: You may email CovidTesting@upstate.edu and include your legal name, date of birth and phone number. You will receive a call back to schedule and register for your test.
    • by Phone: Call 315-464-2778, press 0 and follow prompts (Please note that this line is very busy).
  • Syracuse Community Health Center: Please contact SCHC at 315-476-7921 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Additional information can be found on the SCHC website: https://www.schcny.com/?page_id=1497 

  • Primary Care Offices: Testing is also available at primary care offices. Contact your primary care provider for questions about testing or contact the Upstate Triage line at 315-464-3979. If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, please call 911.

  • Other Testing Locations Near You: search for a test site near you

 

I may have been exposed at work. I don’t have symptoms, but my co-worker is waiting for results. Should I be tested?

You don’t need to be tested yet. If you think you may have been exposed, but you have no symptoms, you can wear a mask and monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days. If you develop any symptoms, you should immediately stop going to work, seek testing, and self-quarantine.

When is the best time to get tested after exposure?

If an individual has an exposure, he or she is required to quarantine because the incubation period (the time between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) can be up to 14 days. Practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette (such as masking). Continue to practice social distancing and monitor yourself for symptoms. If you experience any symptoms, contact your primary care provider for questions about testing or contact the Upstate Triage line at 315-464-3979. If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, please call 911.

I traveled outside of New York State. Do I need to quarantine when I return? I have no symptoms, but should I be tested when I return?

For the most updated information on testing for travel, please visit the New York State COVID-19 Travel Advisory webpage: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory 

Do I have to quarantine if I don’t have symptoms but came into contact with a positive person?

If an individual has an exposure, he or she is required to quarantine because the incubation period (the time between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) can be up to 14 days. 

I have symptoms and was tested. I haven’t received the results yet. How long do I need to self-quarantine?

You need to stay quarantined until you receive your test results, which may take up to four days. If the result is positive, your local Department of Health will contact you, but the timelines may vary. Don’t assume that no contact means you are negative. You must stay quarantined until you confirm the results on the web link related to your testing site.

If you are in mandatory quarantine because you've potentially been exposed (that is, been in contact with an individual that has tested positive or traveled out of state), you must remain in quarantine for the full duration listed on your initial quarantine order in case symptoms develop. A negative test result does not guarantee that symptoms will not develop at a later time during your quarantine.

For information on how to test out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine due to travel,  please refer to the New York State COVID-19 Travel Advisory and Quarantine Requirements at: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory


Test Results and Documentation

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I have been tested and I need my results. How and when can I get them?

The Onondaga County Health Department is notified of positive diagnostic COVID-19 test results only and will contact positive cases individually. The OCHD is not notified of negative test results. Contact the health care provider where the test was given for negative test results.

  • Upstate Testing Locations: If the test was done through Upstate, there are several ways to get your COVID test results:
    • through MyChart: If you have an active MyChart account, you will get an email when results have been posted to your account. Results are posted to MyChart within 24 hours of the time results are done. You can access your MyChart account here.
    • by Phone: If you were tested at an Upstate location and do not have an active MyChart account, you will receive a phone call with your results, whether positive or negative, within 48 hours of being tested. Calls are made seven days a week.
    • by Email: If you need a hard copy of the results, please send an email to releases@upstate.edu with this information:
      • Name of person who was tested
      • Date of birth of the person who was tested
      • Parent/guardian’s name, if applicable
      • Parent/guardian’s date of birth, if applicable
      • Contact phone number
    • Written copies of test results are handled by the Upstate Health Information Management Department Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You may also email releases@upstate.edu with any further test documentation questions you have. Emails will be answered during the business hours listed above.
  • Syracuse Community Health Center (SCHC) Testing Location: If the test was conducted by Syracuse Community Health Center, you can access the Quest portal here, or contact them at 315-476-7921.

  • Other Testing Locations: If you were tested at a different location, contact that clinic to determine its process to obtain your test results.

I need results emailed or faxed to one or more of the following:

  • a doctor
  • a surgery center
  • a hospital
  • a school
  • Upstate Testing Location: If you were tested at an Upstate location and need a written copy of your test results, please send an email to releases@upstate.edu with the following information:
    • Name of the person who was tested
    • Parent or guardian's name, if applicable
    • Date of birth of the person who was tested
    • Contact phone number
  • Written copies of test results are handled by the Upstate Health Information Management Department Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You may also email releases@upstate.edu with any further test documentation questions you have. Emails will be answered during the business hours listed above.
  • Other Testing Locations: If you were tested at a different location, contact that clinic to determine its process to obtain a written statement of your test results. Please note: It may take up to four days for results to be available. 

 

I need documentation for my employer.

  • Upstate Testing Location: If you were tested at an Upstate hospital or primary care clinic, please use your MyChart account to access your test results.
  • Syracuse Community Health Center (SCHC) Testing Location: If you were tested at SCHC, please use this link to Quest Diagnostics to access your test results for printout. You may need to create an account if you don’t have one.
  • Other Testing Locations: If you were tested at a different location, contact that clinic to determine its process to obtain your test results.

MyChart

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Questions related to My Chart, the Upstate patient portal, include:

  • I am having trouble setting it up.
  • I never received an access code.
  • I can’t activate my child’s account.
  • The person calling is not listed as the proxy on record.

To answer these and other MyChart questions, visit: Upstate MyChart FAQs.


Proxy Access for MyChart

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How is privacy handled for patients younger than 18 years old?

Testing minors who are 12-18 years old adds an extra layer of complexity, due to patient privacy, for getting test results through MyChart. Unfortunately, registering and setting up proxy access to your child’s MyChart account adds time to the registration phone call, leading to longer wait times. For proxy access, please have your teen sign up for “Proxy Access” on the MyChart website.

What if a person calling about a test is not listed as a proxy on the record?

For questions and issues related to MyChart, please visit:  Upstate MyChart FAQs


Plasma Project

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What is the Plasma Project at Upstate?

This is a project seeking patients who have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19 for an emergency clinical trial to help treat severely ill COVID-19 patients. The patients would donate plasma, the liquid part of their blood. Information about the Plasma Project at Upstate can be found here.

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