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NC Department of Health and Human Services
State Laboratory of Public Health
N.C. Public Health Home

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

**NOTICE** Starting Monday, November 1, 2021, COVID-19 RT-PCR test orders for specimens submitted to NCSLPH should be placed online in our ETOR system. If you have questions regarding ETOR, please contact NCSLPH Customer Service at 919-733-3937 or

Clinical Laboratory Guidance

Testing Criteria

  • Patients must meet the testing criteria given in the currently posted provider memo (updated 05/06/2021).
  • Testing through the NCSLPH is available for COVID-19 and clinicians can submit specimens to NCSLPH for:
    1. Persons with symptoms consistent with COVID-191;
    2. Persons who live in or have regular contact with a high-risk setting2;
    3. Persons with close contact to a known positive patient;
    4. Uninsured patients; and
    5. Post-mortem specimens from patients in whom COVID-19 was suspected but not confirmed prior to death3.
  • To discuss testing through NCSLPH for patients not meeting any of these criteria, contact the Division of Public Health epidemiologist on-call line at 919-733-3419.
  • In order to systematically monitor COVID-19 virus activity in North Carolina, NCSLPH will also perform testing on surveillance specimens submitted from sites participating in the NC Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet).

1 People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported - ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19: Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

2 Testing at SLPH for asymptomatic residents or staff in congregate living facilities with cases or outbreaks of COVID-19 can be considered on a case-by-case basis in consultation with local and state public health if other testing options are not available.

3 Post-mortem testing is not routinely requested by NC DHHS but is available for situations in which a clinician has deemed such testing appropriate and if supplies for specimen collection and transport are available. Supplies for specimen collection and transport of post-mortem specimens are available through NCSLPH via local health departments. Post-mortem specimens must be collected within 72 hours of death.

Requesting Collection Supplies

  • Facilities can request specimen collection materials through an online system managed by NCDHHS. Please see the NCDHHS website for details.
  • The NCSLPH specimen collection kits can be requested in this system for testing at the NCSLPH and come with the following Kit Instructions (PDF, 289 KB).

Specimen Collection

Handout for Collecting and Sending COVID-19 Specimens to the NCSLPH (PDF, 342 KB) - Last updated 11/01/2021

Specimen Shipment to SLPH

  • Specimens should be packaged and shipped as UN3373 Category B. Please see this June 19, 2020 memo and poster from the US DOT reviewing Category B shipping and safe COVID-19 specimen transport.
  • Do not use the State Courier for shipping COVID-19 specimens.
  • Specimen deliveries will be received at the NCSLPH loading dock from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday, and 8am-12pm on Saturday.

Specimen Rejection Criteria

  • Specimens not kept at 2-8°C (≥72 hrs) or if specimens have not been frozen at -70°C and they are >72 hrs old.
  • Incomplete specimen labeling or documentation. 
  • Inappropriate specimen type.
  • Insufficient specimen volume for testing.

Result Reporting

Clinical Laboratory Safety Guidance

Additional Information for Clinical Laboratory Testing

For Additional Information

  • For general information, non-urgent laboratory questions about specimen collection, testing, and reporting please email the NCSLPH COVID-19 helpdesk at
  • For critical laboratory-related questions during normal business hours (8am - 5pm, Monday - Friday) please call the SLPH Customer Service line at 919-733-3937.
  • Please refer to our Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Providers needing consultation can call the epidemiologist on call at 919-733-3419.
  • NC DHHS Community Care of North Carolina, Inc. (CCNC) has established a toll-free helpline (877-490-6642) aimed at answering patients’ COVID-19 questions and helping them find the care they need.
  • Members of the public should call 2-1-1 or 888-892-1162 or text COVIDNC to 898211.

External Resources