According to experts, there has been a chronic shortage of COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began. According to NPR, more than 171 million tests have been done to date. While it is easier to get a test these days than it was earlier this year, very often there are still long lines forming at testing sites and supplies running short. Approximately 1.6 million tests are done each day in the U.S.
The most accurate, according to NPR, is the PCR test that needs to be sent to a laboratory, so it takes a few days to get results. Abbott ID NOW has a test that was used in the White House that produces results in 15 minutes, but isn’t as accurate. Antigen tests are also quick and can tell whether you are positive in minutes. According to CNBC, the Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use authorization for the first COVID-19 test that can be conducted entirely at home.
It is a nasal swab test developed by Lucira Health that gives results in 30 minutes and will cost less than $50.
Experts note that a negative test doesn’t give you a free pass to see friends and family because COVID-19 may not test positive for days after an actual infection, whether you take the standard PCR test or the rapid antigen test. According to a new study, it takes days for enough virus to replicate itself to detectable levels, says Justin Lessler, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. During that time, you can be harboring the virus and transmitting it to others.
According to CNN, the only safe way to ensure you’re not contagious is to strictly quarantine for 14 days. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN “if you do that properly, you don’t need a test. That’s probably the cleanest way to go.”
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