Labeling and packaging instructions

Nasal Swab

Labeling samples

When labeling samples please either use: 
  • Permanent marker on a handwritten adhesive label to avoid any potential running or smearing of ink, or
  • Printed labels, which are covered in detail in this guide
Each COVID-19 specimen tube must be clearly labeled with the following information:
  • First and last name of the patient
  • Date of birth
  • Sample ID (or Chain of Custody if using LabOnline)
    • Created by the testing facility
      • Must be between five and 12 characters long
      • Unique for each individual but can remain the same across multiple testing events
      • Chain of Custody
        • 6-digit number automatically created by LabOnline and assigned to that sample
  • Viral Transport Medium (the sample tube) expiration date
  • Collection time
    • Though not required, collection date is highly recommended as well.

If any required pieces of information are missing, your sample will be rejected (not processed, and no result will be released). The information found on each properly labeled tube will then be matched to patient information that is submitted to the lab electronically or manually.

Storing and transporting samples

Once samples are collected and properly labelled: 
  1. Place sample in a biohazard bag with any accompanying paperwork (LabOnline order form or Manual order form) placed in the document pocket on the OUTSIDE of the bag.
    • DO NOT place paperwork inside the bag with the specimen.
  2. Store specimens at refrigerated temperatures (2 - 8 Celsius or 26 - 46 Fahrenheit) until transport 
    • DO NOT freeze specimens as freezing and thawing specimens affects their viability.
    • Specimens may be stored for up to 72 hours but must be received by the lab prior to the 72 hour mark.
How to pack specimens for transport:
  1. Obtain a reusable, rigid, non-Styrofoam cooler. 
    • Label the cooler in permanent ink with:
      • Facility name (do not use any abbreviations)
      • Facility address
      • Facility phone number
    • Cooler and ice packs will be returned using FedEx Ground after your samples are processed.
  2. Place frozen cold packs throughout the cooler so that they remain cold during transport.
  3. Fill out the Appendix A Form and place in the cooler on top of the samples.
  4. Secure the lid on the cooler with packing tape.

Labeling and packaging FAQs

This is not an acceptable packaging method, as this puts the samples at greater risk for cross-contamination. Each sample must be placed in its own firmly sealed biohazard bag to help avoid cross-contamination should a sample leak during transport.

No, a standard refrigerator can be used to store specimens. We recommend a dedicated refrigerator for specimens to avoid any confusion regarding your samples, and samples should not be stored in a refrigerator that is also being used for food and beverage storage.

No, supplies can be stored at room temperature prior to use.

Depending on what is missing from the label, the sample may still be able to be tested, but will require confirmation of patient information before the result can be reported. However, if there is no name on the sample, it will have to be discarded in accordance with laboratory policy.

Samples can be tested up to 72 hours after their collection. If for some reason your sample is not expected to reach the lab within 72 hours of collection, email a lab coordinator ( to see what options there are regarding preserving the sample or retesting the individual.

If you run out of the biohazard bags provided with your test kit orders, you may use sealable plastic bags as a last resort. Please be sure to tape any required paperwork to the outside of the bags or staple said paperwork to the top of the bag (stapled above the seal). Please also remember to only include one sample per bag and to firmly seal all bags to reduce the risk of cross-contami

No, samples should be kept at refrigerated temperatures (2 - 8 Celsius or 26 - 46 Fahrenheit). Freezing and thawing samples results in the degradation of the viral material and can affect test results.

Coolers are typically returned within one week, but times can vary based on the sample volume being received by our lab and weather conditions. Clearly write your facility name and shipping address in permanent marker on your cooler to ensure that it is shipped back to the correct location.

If you have any questions, email