Preparing for the holidays? Don’t forget rapid tests for COVID-19

Photo of two rapid antigen COVID-19 tests

As the vacation season approaches, there’s so much to remember. Let’s simply begin with the simple questions: Who’s internet hosting Thanksgiving? Who’s making the turkey? The stuffing? Dessert?

However as we embark on our second spherical of holidays in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of us have extra questions and choices to make about the right way to maintain everybody secure:

  • Inside or exterior? Whereas exterior is safer, it might be too chilly the place you might be to contemplate eating open air.
  • Is it essential to put on masks or maintain a bodily distance? That will depend on everybody’s vaccination standing, latest exposures, and threat tolerance.
  • Should everybody be vaccinated? For a lot of, this one’s a dealbreaker. Some hosts might insist. And a few household and buddies might come provided that everyone seems to be vaccinated.

The function of COVID testing might be altering

We all know much more about testing for COVID-19 than presently final 12 months:

  • PCR exams. That is nonetheless probably the most correct take a look at of present an infection. It detects small quantities of genetic materials from the virus that causes COVID-19. Nevertheless it typically takes days to get the end result again.
  • Fast exams. That is sometimes an antigen take a look at. It detects small bits of viral protein utilizing related know-how to that utilized in being pregnant exams. A bonus of this sort of testing is that the outcomes are again in minutes. And whereas these exams have the next charge of false negatives than a PCR take a look at, getting a damaging end result strongly suggests you aren’t contagious. Even if you’re contaminated, a damaging end result suggests there’s too little virus to contaminate others, at the very least on the time of the take a look at. So, speedy COVID exams might be used as a technique to display individuals simply earlier than an exercise throughout which publicity is feasible — like Thanksgiving or different vacation gatherings.

One method is to supply testing for every particular person as they arrive. It’d sluggish the reunion course of down a bit, however just for a couple of minutes. If a visiting buddy or member of the family exams constructive, they need to depart together with anybody else they may have already uncovered. The subsequent step for them would to be to quarantine whereas ready for outcomes from a PCR take a look at.

Price, availability, and different limits of speedy testing earlier than gatherings

Whereas speedy testing could also be a helpful technique to scale back your threat as vacation gatherings method, it’s not good. Price per take a look at is excessive, usually $10 to $40 within the US. That’s particularly arduous for individuals with restricted sources and people at greater threat for an infection and problems from COVID-19. Fast exams could also be arduous to seek out, too, though the Biden administration has vowed to handle lack of availability by pledging a number of billion {dollars} to develop speedy testing. The well being division in your neighborhood could possibly provide help to discover take a look at websites.

The FDA has given emergency use authorization to just about 40 completely different exams, and analysis means that completely different manufacturers range broadly of their accuracy. At present, there aren’t any particular suggestions from consultants about which speedy take a look at is greatest.


  • Outcomes solely apply to the time that the take a look at is carried out. You might have a damaging take a look at at present regardless of being contaminated and a constructive take a look at tomorrow. These false-negative outcomes might happen as a result of it’s so early within the an infection that there isn’t a lot viral protein current. Or it might be due to how the pattern was obtained — perhaps the swab wasn’t inserted deeply sufficient into the nostril or wasn’t twirled round for lengthy sufficient. Repeated testing might be useful to handle the priority of false-negative outcomes; in actual fact, some exams particularly suggest repeat testing inside a number of days.
  • False-positive outcomes might happen. A take a look at might point out an infection when no such an infection is current. It’s what occurred on a now-infamous episode of The View. Two hosts shortly exited the set throughout a dwell broadcast as a result of their COVID exams have been constructive. Quickly after, their outcomes have been declared incorrect after additional testing was accomplished. Though false-positive outcomes needs to be fairly uncommon, manufacturing issues might make them extra doubtless. In actual fact, some exams have been recalled due to an unexpectedly excessive charge of false-positive outcomes.
  • Be ready to obtain an app and observe directions fastidiously. Fast exams for COVID-19 sometimes require you to obtain an app and join your cellphone or pc to the testing machine by the app. Then it’s essential use a swab to gather a pattern from inside your nostril, apply the swab to the chemical substances from the equipment, and wait quarter-hour or so to your machine to let you know the end result. It’s not a very intuitive or consumer-friendly course of. Many individuals might discover it difficult.

The underside line

Regardless of its limitations, speedy testing for COVID-19 is a technique price contemplating for vacation gatherings or group actions throughout which publicity to the virus is feasible. Ideally, simplified speedy testing will change into available at low (or no) price quickly. So, take into consideration placing speedy COVID testing in your vacation to-do checklist, and think about providing exams to company earlier than you sit down for the turkey. It doesn’t take lengthy, and the turkey most likely received’t be prepared on time anyway.

Comply with me on Twitter @RobShmerling

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