COVID-19 screening and testing

Is there a difference between a screening and a test?

Yes. We screen individuals using a series of questions to determine exposure risk and if there are any signs and symptoms. Screening may also involve some type of physical examination, such as a temperature check. If it is determined that there is a significant risk from the screening, there are underlying conditions and/or there are symptoms being presented, then a laboratory test may be ordered. There could also be other factors taken into account if a COVID-19 test is ordered.

How do you test a person for COVID-19? 

COVID-19 testing can be done at most state public health laboratories. Hospitals also have increasing abilities to test for COVID-19 infection.  Healthcare professionals are working with state public health departments and the CDC to determine who should be tested for COVID-19.  

To test someone for COVID-19, a medical professional swabs inside the patient’s nostril and possibly their throat. If the patient has a wet cough, a sputum sample (the mixture of saliva and mucus that’s coughed up) will also be collected. 

What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19? 

If you are not ill but had contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, notify your County Department of Public Health. 

  • Douglas: 402.444.3400
  • Sarpy/Cass: 402.537.6970
  • Pottawattamie: 712.328.5777

If it is determined that you should be quarantined at home, you will be monitored by staff from your local or state health department.

While being monitored:

  • Stay at home except to get medical care
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Wear a facemask
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
  • Monitor your symptoms

What if I’ve been in contact with someone who was around another person with known COVID-19? 

If you are a secondary contact of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (for example, your co-worker may have been exposed to a patient with COVID-19) and are not experiencing any respiratory symptoms, you do not need to be screened for COVID-19.  You are encouraged to self-monitor by being aware of any new respiratory symptoms and checking your temperature for fever. Call your physician for directions should any symptoms develop. You should not go to the emergency department unless you have a life threatening condition. 

What if I recently traveled to a country where COVID-19 transmission is occurring? 

If you have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or recently returned to Nebraska in the last 14 days from a country where COVID-19 transmission is occurring, and have a fever ≥100.4 and/or respiratory symptoms, you should immediately call your county health department for evaluation and diagnostic testing.

  • Douglas: 402.444.3400
  • Sarpy/Cass: 402.537.6970
  • Pottawattamie: 712.328.5777

If you recently visited mainland China, but aren’t having symptoms, please report your travel to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and self-isolate for 14 days. 

If you recently visited South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan or Thailand, please report your travel to the Nebraska Department of health and Human Services and monitor yourself for fever, cough or shortness of breath twice daily. 

If you feel sick with fever, cough, or are having difficulty breathing: 

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms
  • Avoid contact with others
  • Do not travel on public transportation while sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others
  • Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-95% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.