Have Questions About COVID-19 Tests? Here Are Some Answers
With a number of different tests available, many people have questions about which test to take, when to take it, and what their results may mean. Click here to access this Q&A, where Aaron E. Glatt, MD, MACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau, explains how you can decide which test may meet your needs.
Get Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests
Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.
We are working with SOMOS to ensure you receive your child’s test results as soon as possible. Testing labs are currently experiencing both national and local delays due to the extraordinary number of tests being processed.
Many parents have already registered for the Empire City Laboratories online testing portal using the instructions located under “How to Access COVID-19 Test Results” in our November 23 article below. You must enter your child’s name and date of birth. If you enter your name and information, the registration will be invalid, and you will not receive the test results. Once you have correctly registered, verification of the information can take 24-48 hours. Results will be posted once the entire process is complete.
You will also be notified of test results via a phone call from a SOMOS representative, who will identify themselves, saying they are calling on behalf of the school or the Archdiocese.
Those families with positive results will receive a call immediately upon processing. Negative results are notified in the order they are processed, so those phone calls may take more time to complete due to the extremely high volume of administered tests.
Calls to patients come mainly from the outgoing SOMOS number, which will show on your phone as 833-357-6267, while supervisors and a few others may call from the SOMOS main number, 833-766-6769. Occasionally calls from these exchanges may be blocked by anti-spam apps on cell phones. You may wish to check blocked call logs if you use one of these applications. When SOMOS makes contact with you, HIPAA requires that some data points be validated to ensure that they are speaking to the correct person/guardian. Usually, they will ask for confirmation of the student’s name and date of birth. Once this is verified, then SOMOS can deliver the testing information. If you do not validate the requested information, the representative cannot provide you with results. This verification process is done to protect your privacy and identity and that of your child.
As always, please contact your school office whenever you have questions or concerns. Thank you for your support and attention to detail as we continue to navigate this ongoing situation together.
Check your account for results in 48 hours. If results are not yet available, check back regularly.
If you have any questions regarding accessing the portal please call Empire City Laboratories at 718-788-3840. Please dial Extension: 6. If you have any concerns regarding your results, please contact your healthcare provider.
Fact Sheet Regarding In-School Testing at Yellow Zone Schools
Who will get tested?
A random 20% sample of the in-person faculty, staff and students ages 5 and up will be tested.
How do I submit a consent form?
The school needs an original copy of all consent forms on file. Faxed or scanned copies of consent forms cannot be accepted. Parents are encouraged to drop off the consent forms or to send the forms in with the student prior to the testing date. It is imperative the information be complete and accurate.
Who is conducting the tests?
Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York have engaged the services of SOMOS Community Care to conduct the required bi-weekly random testing in our school. All teams work directly under the supervision of a New York State licensed Medical provider. Each person/team member that is to perform any work in a school shall be vetted to ensure they meet the NYS requirement, have appropriate certification for performing COVID test swabbing, and cleared through a nationwide criminal background check.
Where will testing take place in the building?
Testing will be done in a safe, secure, isolated, well-ventilated space in our building which will be deep cleaned and misted after testing is completed.
What type of test is it?
It is a short swab test which only swabs the nares (front part of the nasal passage). It is NOT a rapid test. While the consent form notes the use of the longer swab, only the short swab will be used on our students.The consent form is a standard document provided by SOMOS.
How will the testing be administered?
Schools in a yellow zone are required by New York State to conduct bi-weekly testing. However, if the testing results show our positivity rate among the 20% random sample of in-person students ages 5 and up, staff, and faculty is lower than the yellow zone’s current seven-day positivity rate, testing will not continue at our school.
What if my insurance company says that they will not cover the test unless it is ordered by a doctor or as a result of close contact with someone who tested positive?
COVID testing is government subsidized and must be paid to any certified laboratory that performs the test. Additionally, there is no application of copays or deductibles and no balance billing for COVID testing. The Medical Director of SOMOS is the ordering provider on every lab test.
What is the cost for families for conducting the tests?
There will be no out of pocket expense for you. Under the federal government’s CARES Act, your medical insurance will cover this testing with zero co-payment. In order to quickly carry out the testing, easily and free, be sure to include your insurance information on the consent form. If you don’t have insurance, your child is still eligible for testing at no cost to you. Click here and here for additional information.
Why is testing starting in kindergarten when the public schools are starting in first grade?
The testing that occurred in the New York City Public Schools was not based on the yellow zone designation. Once an area is considered a yellow zone, the school must test a random 20% sample of in person faculty, staff, and students ages 5 and up in order to stay open for in-person instruction. The distinction is not by grade, but rather by age.
Who will escort my child to the testing location?
A teacher or staff member will escort the children to the testing area.
Can the principal or teacher sit with the student during the actual testing procedure?
The testing area is considered a restricted area and must remain with only authorized personnel with full PPE. The principal or a school official will need to be in full PPE in order to be present in the room for some of the testing. We thank Governor Cuomo for providing the PPE at no expense to allow this to happen.
Can a parent/guardian be present at the time of testing?
Unfortunately, due to the regulations set forth by the reopening plan, we are still not allowed to have any parents or non-essential or unauthorized visitors in the building; this even applies for the testing days. This is for the safety of the school, the students and staff.
Can I take my child to an outside medical provider to have the child tested in lieu of the in-school testing?
Unfortunately, given the reporting that New York State is requiring, this is not a possibility at this time.
Can I call my child out “sick” or go remote on testing days and return the following day?
No. Unfortunately, if you do not submit a consent form, your child will not be allowed to attend in-person instruction until a consent form is signed. If no consent form is signed, the child will need to be fully remote until we revisit the situation at the end of quarter 2.
Will I know prior to testing that my child has been selected? How will I know if my child has been tested?
By signing the consent form, you are allowing your child to be tested; you will not be notified that your child has been selected. If your child is tested, we will let you know they were tested and provide the information on how and when you will receive the results.
When will I know the results of my child’s test?
A representative from SOMOS Results team shall contact patients with the results of the test within 48 hours maximally but within 24 hours is expected.
As you know, your school is one of a number of Catholic schools that currently finds itself in a New York State-designated yellow zone. As such, your school is required by the State to conduct bi-weekly testing of a random 20% sample of the in-person faculty, staff and students ages 5 and up to continue in-person instruction. The Health and Safety Task Force of the Office of the Superintendent of Schools has been planning for this process. We should all embrace this as the next indicated positive step to keep our buildings open and operating safely.
New York City is currently refusing to provide our schools with COVID-19 testing as they are required to do under the law. While we have called upon Mayor de Blasio to instruct schools chancellor Richard Carranza to follow the law, we are prepared to take the City to court to fight for the essential health and welfare services our schools are entitled to under the law. As that struggle for our rights unfolds, we have made arrangements to establish a testing infrastructure that will meet the requirements set forth by New York State as we are committed to keeping our students in school for in-person instruction.
Our Catholic school system has contracted with a highly-regarded, licensed organization, SOMOS Community Care, to conduct the COVID-19 testing required to keep our schools open. Testing will take place in your school building, in a secure area to be designated solely for testing. Student cohorts will not mingle during the testing, and your child’s privacy will be maintained throughout the process, following all HIPAA standards and protocols.
There will be no out of pocket expense for you. Under the federal government’s CARES Act, your medical insurance will cover this testing with zero co-payment. Consent forms will be provided to you. In order to quickly carry out the testing, easily and free, be sure
to include your insurance information on that form. If you don’t have insurance, your child is still eligible for testing at no cost to you.
Once again, if your child age 5 and up is to attend school in person, you must consent to testing your child. Children ages 5 and up who do not have consent will be required to transition to remote learning immediately for the rest of this quarter. Your principal will contact you with details regarding your school’s testing process, including the necessary forms, to make this a seamless process for your family.
This public health crisis has been a constant reminder that we are all part of something greater than ourselves. As members of the extended Catholic schools’ family, it is our nature to unite in order to lift one another up and overcome challenges. At this moment, I have all the faith in the world that we will take a collective breath, understand what is needed to keep our schools open, and once again, move forward together.
Mr. Michael J. Deegan
Superintendent of Schools
Archdiocese of New York
We are providing CMS guidance on COVID 19 testing which addresses insurance questions as well as other issues, which are summarized below. Important note: this area is ever-changing as the pandemic heightens and testing requirements increase.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—in conjunction with the Treasury Department and Labor Department issued rules which implement mandates from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The FFCRA specifies that all COVID-19 testing approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or for which emergency use authorization (EUA) has been requested (until the EUA has been ruled on) and any associated medical services shall be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance without any cost-sharing requirements for the patient. Coverage must be provided without “prior authorization or other medical management requirements.” In addition, the costs of testing and associated medical services for the uninsured can be paid through the National Disaster Management System (NDMS) at 110% of Medicare rates, and a state can opt to cover these costs for uninsured patients through their Medicaid program (with the costs effectively reimbursed in full by the federal government).
Click here for “FAQS ABOUT FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT AND CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF, AND ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT IMPLEMENTATION PART 43” and COVID 19 Section 6008, which offers guidance to clarify how insurance companies and group health plans implement FFCRA and CARES requirements and these are to be utilized when addressing your questions over my synopsis herein.
Click here here for additional FAQs relating to Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
The guidance documents explain that the mandate to cover testing with no cost-sharing applies to all types of COVID-19 diagnostics – PCR tests, antigen detection tests, and serology tests – including when a patient is asymptomatic. However, the guidance also interprets the statute to apply only to testing done for “diagnostic purposes” and “when medically appropriate for the individual, as determined by the individual’s attending health care provider in accordance with accepted standards of current medical practice.” The agencies have defined an “attending health care provider” as any licensed provider making an “individualized clinical assessment.” Where the current law falls short is in the critical gap regarding what is or can be termed as non-medically appropriate, such as access to non-diagnostic testing. Under current guidance, health plans and other forms of coverage need only cover tests done for “diagnostic purposes” and “when medically appropriate for the individual, as determined by the individual’s attending health care provider in accordance with accepted standards of current medical practice.” This leaves a gap in access to and how to pay for other forms of testing such as employee and student return.
With that being said, there are four legal requirements within the laws:
Health plans cannot decline to cover office, telehealth, urgent care, or emergency room visit that results in an order for a COVID-19 test and cannot charge any cost-sharing from the patient. This requirement applies to the “administration” of a COVID-19 test and all “items and services furnished to an individual” during visits “that result in an order for or administration of a [COVID-19 test].”
Health plans cannot exclude serology testing done for “individualized” diagnostic purposes when ordered or administered by a medical professional, nor can they exclude testing for asymptomatic patients with suspected exposure.
Self-insured employer health plans cannot escape these requirements. The statute and Trump administration guidance are crystal clear that all the COVID-19 testing coverage rules apply equally to self-insured employer health plans.
New York State Guidance:
In addition to the federal requirements for COVID-19 testing, the State of New York has introduced several mandates for testing through executive orders and agency guidance. In addition to Governor Cuomo’s executive orders, state government agencies have also issued guidance for COVID-19 testing. The Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued two circular letters providing guidance for insurance issuers to comply with the Governor’s executive orders, Circular Letter’s No. 11 and No. 12 direct health insurance issuers to provide both in-network and out of network coverage for COVID-19 testing at pharmacies and for twice weekly testing of nursing and adult care facility personnel without cost sharing in order to comply with the Governors executive orders. So although Federal law is clear that insurers must cover testing for of those persons who a medical providers deems as medically appropriate, New York has exercised its powers to apply a more expansive testing coverage requirement to New York’s private health insurance industry. Note, that although ERISA plans are exempted from these requirements, Circular Letter No. 11 indicates that third party administrators in the State are “strongly encouraged to apply the provisions” required for fully insured businesses.
Funding for uninsured patients
As part of the FFCRA and CARES Act, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will reimburse healthcare providers, generally at Medicare rates, for testing uninsured patients for COVID-19. Balance billing is not allowed and there will be no cost for those who have no insurance.
Somos and/or the Medical Providers who are to provide the professional services under the Agreement will not send any invoice or bill any student or staff member tested.
Visit our COVID-19 web page for more information relating to the Coronavirus.