Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling and Testing Clinical Specimens from Persons for COVID-19

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

CDC has a designated website for information on all things related to COVID-19 specimens: collecting, handling and testing.  This website details when changes are made to guidelines and where to find additional information – an easy to follow timeline of changes.

Here are 2 recent updates:

Revisions were made on March 24, 2020 to reflect the following:

  • Allowance for self- or healthcare worker-collected nasal swabs as an acceptable specimen type if NP swab is not possible
  • Allowance for self- or healthcare worker-collected nasal turbinate swabs as an acceptable specimen type if NP swab is not possible
  • Updated infection control link to COVID-specific guidance

March 25, 2020

Health care providers should contact their local/state health department immediately to notify them of patients with fever and lower respiratory illness who they suspect may have COVID-19.  Local and state public health staff will determine if the patient meets the criteria for testing for COVID-19.  The state and local health department will assist clinicians to collect, store, and ship specimens appropriately, including during afterhours or on weekends/holidays.  Clinical specimens should be collected for routine testing of respiratory pathogens at either clinical or public health labs.  Note that clinical laboratories should NOT attempt viral isolation from specimens collected from persons suspected to have COVID-19 unless this is performed in a BSL3 laboratory.  Testing for other pathogens by the provider should be done as part of the initial evaluation but should not delay testing for COVID-19.

Evaluating and Testing Persons for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is another website that provides valuable information to clinicians on testing.