What is the PCR/NAAT COVID-19 Test?


Lincoln Urgent Care in Lincoln, California is now offering the PCR/NAAT COVID-19 test for travel.* As summer approaches and vaccine availability is on the rise, many Americans are traveling again and need this test to fly out of commercial airports across the country. Many people are also wondering: what is a PCR COVID-19 Test?

The first thing to understand is that there are two types of COVID-19 testing methods: diagnostic tests and antibody tests. Diagnostic tests show when you are actively infected with COVID-19, while antibody tests show if you have previously been infected with COVID-19. PCR tests are a type of diagnostic test that uses a technique called NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests) to determine if a person is currently infected with COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2.)

What Are Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs)?

From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

A Nucleic Acid Amplification Test, or NAAT, is a type of viral diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. NAATs detect genetic material (nucleic acids). NAATs for SARS-CoV-2 specifically identify the RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequences that comprise the genetic material of the virus.

The NAAT procedure works by first amplifying – or making many copies of – the virus’s genetic material that is present in a person’s specimen. Amplifying or increasing the copies of nucleic acids enables NAATs to detect very small amounts of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in a specimen, making these tests highly sensitive for diagnosing COVID-19. In other words, NAATs can reliably detect small amounts of SARS-CoV-2 and are unlikely to return a false-negative result of SARS-CoV-2.

What is a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test?

From The Cleveland Clinic:

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is performed to detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus. The test detects the presence of a virus if you are infected at the time of the test. The test could also detect fragments of virus even after you are no longer infected.

A PCR test for COVID-19 is a test used to diagnose people who are currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, which is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The PCR test is the “gold standard” test for diagnosing COVID-19 because it’s the most accurate and reliable test.

How is a PCR Test Conducted?

A PCR test is a three-step process. Step one takes place inside our office. Steps two and three take place at an outside laboratory, and your results are available in 1-3 days.

  1. Sample Collection: The inside of your nose will be swabbed to collect respiratory material. After collection, the swab is sealed and sent to a lab. If you are infected with COVID-19, the virus will be present in this sample.
  2. Extraction: Once the lab receives our test swab, a process called “extraction” takes place. During this process, any genetic viral material is separated from your sample.
  3. PCR: The sample is placed in a PCR machine with special chemicals. Due to the NAAT process, if COVID-19 is present, millions of copies of the virus’ genetic material will appear and produce a fluorescent glow due to the chemicals added. This fluorescent glow indicates a positive result.

Get Tested at Lincoln Urgent Care

At Lincoln Urgent Care, we are currently conducting PCR tests on a walk-in basis only – no need to schedule an appointment! Please visit our office during our normal business hours to receive your PCR swab test. Results are available in three days or less.

*excludes Hawaii at this time

Please note: some destinations will accept our Rapid 15-minute Antigen Test. Check with your airline and destination to determine if it is accepted.


Lincoln Urgent Care and Granite Bay Urgent Care are full-service urgent care centers with onsite x-ray and laboratory testing. Our team is dedicated to providing patients with affordable and timely care for their urgent care needs.

Lincoln Urgent Care
77 Lincoln Boulevard Suite 1
Lincoln, CA 95648
Phone: (916) 258-2751
Fax: (916) 258-7172

Granite Bay Urgent Care
5290 Douglas Blvd
Suite 102
Granite Bay, CA 95746
Phone: (916) 570-7265
Fax: (916) 200-2412

As your trusted urgent care clinic, we would like to notify our patients about the Open Payments database put in place by the Medical Board of California as of January 1, 2024.

The federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires that detailed information about payment and other payments of value worth over ten dollars ($10) from manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, and biologics to physicians and teaching hospitals be made available to the public.

The Open Payments database is a national transparency program that collects and publishes information about financial relationships between drug and medical device companies and certain healthcare providers.

For informational purposes, please visit: openpaymentsdata.cms.gov