COVID-19 Testing

COVID-19 Testing

We recognize and understand that there is a lot of frustration and confusion regarding COVID-19 testing. Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of testing supplies available throughout the region and the country.

Facts about COVID-19 testing:
  • There are two different components to testing:
    1. Collecting a sample from a patient.
    2. Sending the collected sample to an approved laboratory for testing.
  • Collection of a sample typically involves swabbing the patient’s nose and throat.
  • Sample collection is the primary focus for the healthcare facilities, as none of them have the ability to test onsite. All healthcare providers in the region have to send samples to offsite labs for COVID-19 testing.
  • Until recently, COVID-19 testing was only available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state laboratories.
  • Some commercial laboratories now have testing capability, however, there are still several challenges that limit the availability of testing, including the lack of supplies needed for sample collection before it can be sent to the lab for testing.
  • “Test kits” are only used at laboratories and are not available to the public.
  • Testing supplies are limited, and the most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, are given priority.
  • The Prince William Health District is NOT offering COVID-19 testing, as they are not a primary health care service. Their role is to investigate and monitor county residents who are confirmed via lab testing and to conduct “contact investigations” to identify additional people who came in close contact with individuals to help stop the spread of the disease.
What You Should Do:
  1. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and you are concerned you’ve been exposed, you should call your health care provider for medical advice and follow these CDC guidelines. Your doctor will evaluate your health and determine if you need testing. DO NOT go to your doctor’s office unannounced. Very specific infection control protocols must be in place prior to your arrival; and, if your doctor facilitates a test for you at a lab or hospital, you must follow their directions specifically so that infection control protocol is appropriate.
  2. If your health care provider declines to test you for COVID-19, it may be because they don’t believe testing is warranted in your situation based on their best clinical judgment. Your health care provider may also decline testing because they do not have the materials to do such testing in the office. In that case, ask your provider if they can refer you to one of their affiliated health care facilities where they will complete an assessment and you may be tested.
  3. If you are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough or shortness of breath) and either have a positive lab test or have been directed by your health care provider to isolate at home, please continue self-isolation at home until:
    • At least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared AND
    • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (three full days with no fever and no use of medicine to reduce fever) AND
    • Other symptoms have gone away or improved
  4. You should NOT go to any emergency room unless it is an emergency, for example, you are having difficulty breathing. If you need to go to the ER, and you have symptoms plus a known exposure, you must call ahead to ensure proper infection control protocols are in place prior to your arrival.

There is no reason to be tested unless a healthcare provider specifically orders a test for you, especially if you have no symptoms of COVID-19. In the meantime, please follow the basic preventative measures recommend by the Centers for Disease Control, such as frequent hand washing, avoiding crowds and staying at least 6 feet away from other people.


The symptoms for COVID-19 are similar to those of influenza or other respiratory illnesses and include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing

These symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. Currently, those at elevated risk of exposure are:

  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19
  • Travelers returning from affected international or domestic locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with level of risk dependent on where they traveled.

Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Notify the operator that you have or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a facemask before medical help arrives.
Emergency warning signs include*:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

What Prince William County is Doing:
  • Prince William County is working diligently with the health care community and Virginia Department of Health to get more tests for our community.
  • The Board of County Supervisors sent a letter to the White House supporting the request that the National Capital Region be included as a site on the national testing priority list.

For the latest information about Prince William County and COVID-19, visit