Rapid COVID-19 tests taken at home can give results in 15 minutes

While less accurate than PCR tests, health officials say at-home COVID-19 tests are still a good tool
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 5:02 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Health officials say more testing can help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially if people can get the results right away. It’s why Anchorage and the state are backing COVID-19 testing kits people can use at home that give results in as little as 15 minutes.

Dr. Michael Savitt, Anchorage’s chief medical officer, said the rapid antigen tests are not considered as accurate as the PCR tests where samples are sent to a lab, but can still be very useful, especially if people are showing symptoms and need results right away.

“My suggestion is, if it’s not a financial issue, then it may make sense to have a couple of these tests kits at home,” Savitt said. “If you are concerned about whether you should go to work, whether you should send your kids off to school, whether you should be isolating or not, and if you don’t have time to go to one of the many test centers we have in town for example.”

The accuracy of the rapid tests can vary, but Savitt called them “accurate enough”. He said false positives are unusual — false negatives occur more often. It’s why most home tests recommend taking a second test (which is included), 36 to 48 hours later. State health officials said during a medial availability on Thursday that a second negative test result from a rapid antigen test is generally 70% to 90% accurate that the person does not have COVID-19.

Savitt said people who test positive should notify their health care provider. He emphasized that tests and treatments, while useful in diagnosing or treating the virus, are not the best way to prevent it. He encouraged people to consider getting vaccinated.

Last month, President Joe Biden vowed to make access to the testing kits easier and more affordable, directing Amazon, Kroeger (Fred Meyer) and Walmart to sell the rapid kits at cost for 90 days. But so far availability has been limited, and when the kits appear in Anchorage stores they sell out fast.

The Municipality of Anchorage has a website for people to search for testing availability, including for rapid tests, and the state has purchased rapid tests to distribute to schools. Earlier this week the president said the federal government will invest another $1 billion in the tests to make them more available.

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