All Points Medical Waste Blog

Handling Waste from COVID-19 Testing

Guidelines for Safe Disposal

With each new COVID-19 variant, more and more people across the country are getting tested. Testing is a top way to help stop the spread of the virus—especially since many are asymptomatic but can still give the virus to others. Healthcare facilities, pharmacies, clinics and testing sites are overloaded with folks getting tested for the latest strain Omicron, and at-home tests are becoming more popular as well. All of this is causing an increase in waste generation. It’s crucial that medical waste generated from testing is managed and disposed of properly to prevent further spreading of the virus.

Types of COVID-19 Tests

COVID-19 tests can detect SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, or antibodies in the blood that the immune system makes after being exposed to the virus. Although tests are performed differently, each generates medical waste which can cause infection if exposure occurs, take a look:

Molecular Test (PCR)

The molecular test, also called the PCR test, is performed by taking a swab of the nose or throat, or taking a saliva sample. This test is considered to be highly accurate and can detect an active virus, even if the person is asymptomatic. Although the test is very complex, results can sometimes be received on the same day, but often within 24-48 hours. 

Antigen Test (Rapid)

The antigen test offers the quickest results and is performed by taking a swab of the nose or throat. This test can detect an active infection and although highly accurate, false negatives do occur so it’s recommended that people get a PCR in addition to the rapid test.

Antibody Test

The antibody test is performed by drawing blood and results can be determined within an hour or earlier. This test detects antibodies in the blood which shows that you have been infected with COVID-19 in the past. The drawback to this test is that it cannot detect an early infection or if you are contagious at the time of the test.

Best Practices for Testing and Disposal of Medical Waste

Medical professionals who are performing COVID-19 tests should follow safety guidelines from the CDC and dispose of all waste properly to protect themselves and others.

    • Staff taking specimens from patients should wear a N95 mask or higher respirator mask, face shield or eye covering, gloves and protective gown
    • Gloves should be changed after each test to prevent cross contamination
    • Each specimen collected must be handled with caution as it could contain infectious materials
    • Lancets, swabs, solutions, reagent tubes, fingerstick devices and all other test devices cannot and should not be reused
    • Tests and test components that have expired or show signs of damage must be discarded
    • Follow local, state and federal guidelines on discarding unused test kit waste
    • Used testing kits must be disposed of in accordance with infectious waste guidelines and treated as able to transmit disease –this includes used cartridges, biological specimens and transfer devices 

All Points Medical Waste can assist you in disposal of all medical waste generated by your facility. We are OSHA, DOT, Health Department and HIPAA compliant, and can help ensure that your organization not only remains compliant, but also is protected against risks of infection and spread from medical waste. Give us a call today or fill out this form to learn how we can serve you.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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