How coronavirus testing works in Florida

Posted at 12:07 PM, Mar 15, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — Amid the coronavirus pandemic, it's essential to understand who can be tested and how the testing is done. This is how the Florida Department of Health says the process works.


Who qualifies for health department testing?

According to the Florida Department of Health, to be tested the person must:

  • Have close contact with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19; AND
  • Have a fever, cough and/or shortness of breath

If someone is not showing symptoms, despite travel or exposure, DOH says they will not be tested.

"The Department of Health is prioritizing testing of symptomatic individuals who had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case, are part of an outbreak, or have unexplained respiratory illness, per CDC guidance," a Hillsborough County press release said. "Testing is also available at commercial laboratories, and clinicians should use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested, again per CDC guidance.

Coronavirus in Florida: COVID-19 cases, locations and live updates across the Sunshine State

Call ahead before visiting

The Department of Health says it's important to call ahead before visiting your health care provider or the department. DOH says offices must also take steps to avoid further spread of COVID-19 when a concerned patient arrives for an appointment.

How is testing done?

According to the Department of Health, a person who is tested will have up to three specimens taken.

  • Oral
  • Nasal
  • Sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract)

Samples are given to the Florida Department of Health then shipped or delivered to a lab that can carry out the COVID-19 test. Results are typically ready in 24 to 48 hours.