The who, what, and where of coronavirus testing

Every day, Arizona’s coronavirus statistics change. Graphs show the up and down trends around our state, including how many people have had confirmed cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Testing is at the heart of those statistics, but the testing landscape is also changing all the time. If you’re like most Arizonans, you likely have questions about this important topic. Blue Cross® Blue Shield® of Arizona (BCBSAZ) is here to help.


The Diagnostic Test The Antibody Test
What is it? Called a “PCR test,” it looks for an active version of the virus. Called a “serology test,” it looks for a previous exposure to the virus.
What do the results mean? A positive test means that the person is currently infected with COVID-19. A positive test means that the person has developed antibodies to COVID-19, which likely means they have already had the virus.
How is it done? Most commonly, a swab is inserted into the nose or throat. Versions using saliva samples are also starting to be used. A blood sample is taken, typically by finger-stick.
Who should consider getting it? People who have typical COVID-19 symptoms should contact their healthcare providers to ask about whether a test is necessary. People who believe they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or have fully recovered from a confirmed case can ask their healthcare providers about getting the antibody test.
Where can people get this test? All tests should be administered by or at a:

  • Testing event conducted by a laboratory, a provider, or a healthcare facility

  • Hospital

  • Healthcare screening conducted by a licensed healthcare provider (MD/DO, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant)

  • Government organization (which requires a provider’s order to be covered by BCBSAZ)
  • How long before the results are ready? Most results take 24-72 hours. Some providers have access to automated testing supplies, which can offer results more quickly.
    Does a positive test mean the patient can infect others? Yes. Anyone who tests positive should quarantine at home and follow these tips. No. However, scientists don’t yet know if people who have already had COVID-19 can get it again. Anyone who tests positive should still follow social distancing and masking guidelines.
    Are the results always 100% accurate? No. There are some imperfections with these tests, and false positive or negative results are possible. This is still a very new health category, and scientists are actively working to improve testing accuracy.
    What does it cost? Nothing for BCBSAZ members. We are waiving copay and co-insurance for COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are:

  • Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA);

  • Ordered by a physician (MD/DO), nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or authorized pharmacist; and

  • Performed according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Nothing for BCBSAZ members. We are waiving copay and co-insurance for COVID-19 antibody tests that are:

  • Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or have received emergency use approval (EUA) from the FDA;

  • Ordered by a physician (MD/DO), nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or authorized pharmacist; and

  • Conducted at a qualified lab. (At-home tests are covered with a provider’s order.)