Coronavirus Disease 2019

Public Health

LAC DPH Public Health Lab (PHL) COVID-19 Testing Criteria Page Updated 4-13-20
COVID-19 testing – general information

Testing through PHL is prioritized for the detection and prevention of outbreaks in acute- and subacute-care health facilities and non-healthcare congregate living settings.

If the patient meets the criteria below, call LAC DPH:

  • Call 213-240-7941 from 8:00am-5:00pm Monday to Friday and 213-974-1234 (After Hours Emergency Operator)
  • DO NOT collect or send specimens to PHL until the case is discussed and testing is approved by DPH
Clinical Features and Epidemiologic Risk
Fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g. cough or shortness of breath) AND Any healthcare worker (defined as a person providing direct clinical care to patients) who worked while symptomatic in an acute or long-term care facility1
A resident of a long-term care facility
Paramedic personnel and Emergency Medicine Technicians (EMTs)
Part of a cluster of 2 or more cases of a presumed infectious acute respiratory illness within a 72-hour period AND Any congregate living setting (e.g. senior assisted-living facility, homeless shelters)
Before you begin...

Please read these instructions carefully as issues with specimens, forms, and labeling can lead to specimen rejection or testing delays. DO NOT collect or send specimens to the Public Health Lab (PHL) until approved by DPH.

PHL aims to result tests within 2 business days of receipt of specimen, but delays could occur based on volume and capacity.

SARS CoV-2 PCR Specimen Collection

Upper Respiratory Specimen--for initial diagnostic testing, collect at least one upper respiratory specimen.

Any of the following specimens are acceptable:

  • Nasopharyngeal swab
  • Oropharyngeal swab
  • Combined nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal swab
  • Nasal swab
    • Nasal mid-turbinate swab
    • Anterior nares swab
  • Combined nasal/oropharyngeal swab
  • Nasopharyngeal wash/aspirate
  • Nasal wash/aspirate

Swabs: Acceptable swab types include synthetic fiber swabs (flocked or spun polyester) with plastic or wire shafts. Do not use calcium alginate swabs or cotton swabs with wooden shafts. Place swab in a minimum of 1-3 mL viral transport media, liquid Amies, or saline .

Aspirates and washes: collect 1.5-3.0 mL in a sterile, leak-proof container.

Lower respiratory tract specimens--may be required for patients presenting with severe disease or fatal cases. Acceptable lower respiratory tract specimens include sputum, bronchoalveolar lavage, tracheal aspirate, pleural fluid, lung swab, or lung biopsy. Collect lower respiratory tract specimens in a sterile, leak-proof container. Lung swab should be submitted in viral transport media. A minimum of 2-3 mL is needed for sputum, lavage and aspirates.

For more information on see:

  • Complete a COVID-19 PHL H-3021 Test Requisition form for each specimen. The following information must be in the "other" field of the test request form:
    • For NP swabs - novel coronavirus 2019 PCR and Biofire RP panel.
    • For OP swabs, NP/OP swabs, sputum, BAL, and endotracheal aspirates - novel coronavirus 2019 PCR.
  • Test request forms MUST include full patient name, date of birth, medical record number, sex, date/time collected, specimen source, and the hospital or clinic where the specimen was collected.
  • The specimen source on the tube MUST match the source on the form.
  • Refrigerate specimens at 2-8°C and transport on cold pack. If specimen storage exceeds 3 days, freeze specimen at ≤ -70°C and ship on dry ice.
  • Ship specimens by courier to: Los Angeles County Public Health Laboratory, Attn: Molecular Epidemiology Unit, 12750 Erickson Avenue, Downey, CA 90242.
  • PHL can receive specimens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Public Health will provide a courier only to facilities with no other alternate means of specimen transport.
  • Specimens that arrive at PHL without prior DPH approval may experience significant delays in testing.

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  • Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.

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