The Omicron variant is spreading so fast that many COVID-19 testing sites are overwhelmed with patients.
Experts including Dr. Sterling Bennett, who oversees Intermountain Healthcare’s Central Laboratory, said this is impacting laboratories racing to get results out.
“It’s a big challenge for us to find enough people to meet the demand in testing right now,” Bennett said.
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More eyes and hands are turning to at-home COVID-19 tests, which are in short supply. Some people may wonder how accurate the tests are.
Bennett explained there is some variation in the accuracy of the at-home COVID-19 test kits.
“It depends on a couple of things. One, it depends on the strain of virus that is currently circulating. The second, it depends on the quality of the sample,” he said.
There are two categories of COVID-19 tests currently on the market — the antigen test and the nucleic acid test (also known as the PCR test).
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When it comes to the antigen test, Bennett said it’s simple, direct and inexpensive. It can be purchased over the counter and offers quick results.
For the PCR test, the process in detecting a virus is different.
“The sensitivity of the nucleic acid test is much greater than with the antigen tests, but it’s more expensive and it takes longer, and those are some of the tradeoffs,” Bennett said.
If some people decide to use an at-home test and results show they’re positive, they can follow up a day or two later with the same antigen test.
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Bennett said this is important for people who are not having any symptoms.
If someone decides to get tested, they can go to a testing site to get the PCR COVID-19 test.
People can get a PCR test by signing up with their local healthcare provider.