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State Laboratory of Public Health
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COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

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 What is the turnaround time for COVID-19 testing at the NCSLPH?

The North Carolina Division of Public Health continues to work to contain the spread of COVID-19, and a big part of that effort is testing people at immediate risk for the virus. The North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health (NCSLPH) is working closely with the Communicable Disease Branch to prioritize specimens from individuals at greatest risk for COVID-19. We use the test developed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The estimated turnaround time for COVID-19 testing is 24-48 hours from time of receipt.

 Do positives need to be sent to the CDC for confirmation?

No, CDC confirmation is no longer required.

 Are there any laboratories providing serological testing to detect COVID-19?

FDA has recently granted an EUA for a Point-Of-Care lateral flow assay manufactured by Cellex that detects IgG/IgM specific to SARS-CoV-2. However, we are not aware of any laboratories currently using this test in North Carolina.

 What is the best way to contact the NCSLPH if I need more information?

  • For non-urgent, laboratory-related questions, please email
  • For laboratory-related questions during normal business hours (8am - 5pm, Monday – Friday) please call the NCSLPH Customer Service at 919-733-3937.

 Who should I call if I have questions about getting tested for coronavirus?

If you are a member of the public and you have general questions or concerns related to coronavirus, call the NC COVID-19 Call Center at 866-462-3821. For non-urgent questions, please email If you are sick with respiratory symptoms and have questions about getting tested, call your healthcare provider or your County Health Department.

 I'm a clinician caring for a patient that meets the CDC criteria for COVID-19 testing. Who should I call?

Clinicians caring for patients with possible COVID-19 should immediately contact their County Health Department or the state Communicable Disease Branch (919-733-3419; available 24/7) to review the risk assessment and discuss laboratory testing and control measures.

 Should Local Health Departments conduct rapid flu testing prior to the collection of specimens to conduct COVID-19 testing?

Local Health Departments should conduct a rapid flu test prior to collecting specimens for COVID-19 testing. If the rapid flu test is positive no further action is required for COVID-19 response. If the rapid flu test is negative, specimens should be collected and submitted to a laboratory, such as the NCSLPH, that is currently conducting testing to detect COVID-19.

Collection Kits

 Does the NCSLPH provide COVID-19 specimen collection kits to county health departments?

Yes. County health departments that need to order COVID-19 Specimen Collection Kits must have a resource request placed in NC Sparta (WebEOC) to be processed. Please contact your County Emergency Manager to place the WebEOC request. If you are not familiar with this office, please reach out to the Preparedness Coordinator at the health department to facilitate a connection.

County health departments should request whole collection kits and not the individual components. Each kit is packaged with supplies to collect specimens from 3 individuals. County health departments can order up to 4 collection kits at one time. Approval of kit quantities above 4 will be based on the availability of kit components.

Providers collecting specimens with supplies from the NCSLPH kits must send the specimens to the NCSLPH for testing. Use of these kits to submit specimens to other laboratory facilities may result in specimen rejection from those laboratories.

 What comes in the COVID-19 specimen collection kit?

The COVID-19 Form, collection instructions, cold pack information, specimen label, address label, UN3373 shipping label, Styrofoam shipping container, 2 cold packs, 3 vials of sterile viral transport medium, 3 conical tubes, 3 sterile synthetic swabs for NP collection.

 What is the viral transport medium mentioned on the NCSLPH website? Is it the same as the medium used for herpes specimens sent to the state lab?

The viral transport medium provided by the NCSLPH will support transport of herpes, influenza, and coronaviruses.

 Can unused kit items be incorporated in additional specimen collections?

County health departments that have previously ordered and received NCSLPH COVID-19 Specimen Collection Kits can incorporate unused collection materials (vials of transport medium, if stored at 2-8°C, and unopened swabs) from earlier kits for future specimen collections.

 Can I send back multiple specimens in one kit box to conserve shipping supplies?

Yes, however do not wait to batch specimens for shipment. If sending multiple specimens, each vial of viral transport medium must be clearly labeled and separated in its own padded conical tube, inside its own plastic bag. Each specimen also needs a fully completed COVID-19 Form. About three specimens can fit in a kit box, along with the cold packs.

 Can local hospitals order COVID-19 Specimen Collection Kits?

Currently the NCSLPH collection kits are only being made available to county health departments. Local hospitals and other healthcare providers can use their existing supplies for specimen collection. Please review our new Specimen Collection and Shipping Handout and other details on specimen collection on our Clinical Laboratory Guidelines page.

Specimen Collection

 How should specimens be collected for COVID-19 testing?

Please see our Specimen Collection Handout and Specimen Collection Kit Instructions.

 What type of transport medium needs to be used for specimen collection?

The NCSLPH kit includes a vial with 2mls of sterile viral transport medium (VTM). Commercially available viral collection kits that contain 2-3mls of VTM can also be used for COVID-19 specimen collection, as long as they do not already contain a moistened swab in the container.

 Are submitters required to collect each specimen type in duplicate for COVID-19 testing?

No. Currently the North Carolina guidance is recommending a single NP swab collection for COVID-19 testing.

 What are the ICD-10 and CPT codes for COVID-19 and COVID-19 testing?

These codes have not been established. However, the following HCPCS codes have been established by CMS for tracking new COVID-19 cases and lab testing reimbursement: U0001 (CDC EUA Testing) and U0002 (COVID-19 testing strategies other than the CDC EUA Testing). For more details please see CMS Develops Additional Code for Coronavirus Lab Tests.

Shipping Specimens

 Can health care providers submit specimens for COVID-19 testing without using the NCSLPH COVID-19 Specimen Collection Kit?

Yes. Please see the Specimen Collection and Shipment Handout for detailed information about specimen collection, submission, and packaging/shipping.

 I want to send specimens to the NCSLPH. What are the hours of operation for specimen receipt?

The NCSLPH loading dock is open for package receipt Monday - Friday from 8am - 5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8am - noon.

  1. County health departments can now use a UPS interface for ordering return labels for COVID-19 specimens. This service also includes labels for Saturday deliveries. Instructions for accessing and using the system have been sent to local health department Directors. Please contact to request instructions if needed. Return labels are only being provided for COVID-19 specimens coming to the NCSLPH for testing. This service is not available to private healthcare facilities.
  2. We are strongly recommending that all other healthcare providers use overnight couriers, or their facility associated couriers for specimen submission during the hours provided above.
  3. The State Courier cannot be used for COVID-19 specimens.

 Do I need to contact the NCSLPH prior to sending COVID-19 samples?

No. We are no longer requesting facilities to email tracking numbers and shipment contents.

 Is the NCSLPH providing Cat B shipping supplies to facilities sending specimens for COVID-19 testing?

NCSLPH is providing county health departments with COVID-19 Specimen Collection Kits that contain everything needed for the collection, packaging and shipment of COVID-19 specimens as UN3373 Category B to the NCSLPH. All other facilities can order Cat B shipping supplies from commercial vendors. Here are some Vendor suggestions for purchasing these supplies: Saf-T-Pak through Fisher, Com-Pac, TheraPak.

Other Diagnostics

 Is there a reliable list of labs that are offering testing to detect COVID-19?

The FDA website has a list of laboratories that have agreed to be identified.

 Is there a reliable list of assays that have a FDA approved EUA?

The FDA website has a list of in vitro diagnostic EUAs.

 Can local health departments use point-of-care COVID-19 tests with a CE mark of approval for use?

No. Local health departments must only use kits that are FDA-approved for COVID-19 testing, or have received an EUA. Point-of-care tests, diagnostic kits, and instruments must be approved by the FDA prior to use.



Updated: April 29, 2020