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The author in a face mask.

Juliana Kaplan/Business Insider

  • I had ‘COVID toes,’ a strange foot infection that can be a coronavirus symptom.
  • I consulted my doctor, who told me that a coronavirus test likely wouldn’t be helpful — but an antibody one would be.
  • When I saw that Quest Diagnostics was offering one, I was able to book a same-day appointment and receive results within 12 hours.
  • However, the test came back negative, leaving me with more confusion.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It began with what I thought was athlete’s foot: a strange, irritable foot rash that had come out of nowhere. 

In early March, I certainly wasn’t going outside, nor strenuously exercising. I was mostly glued to my laptop all day editing and reporting coronavirus news, and, when I did venture outdoors for air, I often stayed within the confines of my street, worried about overcrowding.

So, when the rash appeared — and I found myself regularly soaking my feet in a burning bath of Epsom salt to try and reduce the irritation — I was pretty confused. 

Then, I saw a Business Insider article: “COVID toes” might be the latest unusual sign that people are infected with the novel coronavirus. I realized that my feet looked almost exactly like the photographs of healing toes.

“COVID toes” — which are purple and swollen — can be a sign of a coronavirus infection. As Business Insider’s Yeji Jesse Lee reported, patients who have them tend to be younger and may not experience other symptoms — which tracked with my experience.

I consulted with my doctor, who told me that if I took a COVID-19 diagnostic test, it would probably come out negative. An antibody test would be more revealing — if I was able to access one.

So when Quest Diagnostics announced that you could order an antibody test online — and then go to one of their facilities for testing — I jumped at the chance. I did not receive any special access to a test as a member of the media; I booked one as anyone else would — and can. Here’s how I did it.

First, I went onto the Quest Diagnostics website and filled out a quick questionnaire to see if I qualified for the test. I answered no to all of these.

quest diagnostics website

The questionnaire that pops up when you add a test to your cart.

Juliana Kaplan/Business Insider

After I filled out the questionnaire, I was prompted to select an appointment time at a Quest Diagnostics near me. There were several locations within a few miles, and I was able to snag a same-day appointment at the second-closest one. The location had almost every appointment available for the next day.

quest diagnostics location finder

I just had to pop in my zip code.

Juliana Kaplan/Business Insider

The test cost about $130. I prepaid online, which is the only payment option — you won’t be taking out a credit card at the lab facility.

quest diagnostics fee

The price with service fee.

Juliana Kaplan/Business Insider

I got to the lab a little bit early. The waiting area was completely empty, as was a receptionist’s desk. I checked in by scanning a QR code that Quest had sent to me, and then I took a seat (carefully).

empty waiting room

The empty waiting room.

Juliana Kaplan/Business Insider

The television in the waiting room was playing an old “Today Show” episode, which felt particularly dystopian. There seemed to be an interview with Robert Downey, Jr. about “Dolittle” on loop.

A few minutes after my appointment time, I was called into the exam room. The staff member who drew my blood was wearing both a face mask and face shield, and swapped out gloves before drawing my blood. The whole blood draw took about a minute.

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I was in and out of the exam room almost immediately.

Crystal Cox/Business Insider

It was definitely the quickest appointment I’ve ever had. It was eerie to cut the pleasantries, although completely understandable. At this point, it seemed like we were the only two people in the entire lab.

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I was bandaged up, and sent on my way. Quest had already told me I would receive my results within the next 48 hours. In fact, I received them a little less than 12 hours after my appointment …


My bandage (and my cat).

Juliana Kaplan/Business Insider

… and they were negative. The website included a note saying that the test had not been reviewed by the FDA yet, and that it takes at least 10 days after symptoms appear for antibodies to be detectable.

quest results

The email I received from Quest Diagnostics.

Juliana Kaplan/Business Insider

Ultimately, I was left with more questions than answers. It’s possible I hadn’t had enough time to develop antibodies. There have also been reports of patients not having a detectable level of antibodies. Or something else completely may have been wrong.

I’m not the only one to face confusion after receiving antibody test results. CNN anchor Chris Cuomo tested negative for the coronavirus after recovering — but he tested positive for antibodies that appear in the early term of the illness; he also had long-term antibodies.

Business Insider’s Holly Secon went to get tested after coming down with — and recovering from — coronavirus symptoms. As Secon noted, one recent paper (that has not yet been peer-reviewed) tested patients who had recovered from coronavirus for antibodies: out of 175 tested, 10 didn’t have detectable antibodies. Most of them were younger, like myself and Secon.

Regardless, I’m going to take the lab’s advice to discuss my results with my doctor — and maybe, when testing becomes more standardized and more tests are approved by the FDA, I’ll be able to get more answers.

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Antibody testing
COVID-19 testing

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