Here’s what we should being doing since rapid tests aren’t as effective as PCR

Written By August Stephens, Co-Opinions Editor

The COVID-19 Omicron variant has raised concerns of how fast the virus is able to spread from person to person. Because of this, companies are changing their mandates for employees regarding testing, and that’s been met with a mixed reaction.

Testing for COVID-19 has become normalized in today’s culture, as people are more unsure about the health and safety of their surroundings. Although rapid tests are largely more convenient than laboratory tests, they are not always completely accurate. The processing time is only worth it if results are needed the day of or the day before an event, such as a dinner, flight, movie filming or a large group gathering.

Each COVID-19 test has a different sensitivity, which is how the test results are measured. Molecular tests, otherwise known as polymerase chain reactions (PCR), identify the genetic material in the virus. They often take longer to get a positive or negative result because they are sent to a laboratory.

Antigen rapid tests identify protein rather than genetic material, but, despite their convenience, can lead to misleading results. According to Yale Medicine, they are considered to have a “moderate to high” sensitivity.

ID NOW is a rapid molecular test, combining methods of the rapid and PCR tests. They may not be as regularly available in pharmacies but have a quick testing time. Due to the test’s unique structure, results can be available in about 15 minutes.

Tests are commonly collected in the same way, usually with a nasal swab. There has been pushback and debate on social media if swabbing the throat would produce improved results with the spread of Omicron. So far, nasal swabs are the most common in the United States. According to Vox, there is a risk of a false negative result for both, depending on the amount of virus within the test. They are usually available for order online or at a nearby pharmacy.

It is irresponsible to solely rely on rapid testing when laboratory tests are available. If accessible then people should wait the amount of time it takes to receive results from PCR tests. The more likely the test is to be accurate, the safer everyone will be altogether. If anyone is not feeling 100% and has been around people whom they are not close with, testing should be taken care of immediately.

The demand for tests in certain locations, for instance large cities, might outweigh the supply of COVID-19 tests. Individuals may also take a rapid test at home, have a negative result, and continue about their day without thinking they could still be positive. It is still possible to have just the flu or a common cold with normal symptoms, like a cough or a sore throat. Nevertheless, it is important to check in order to protect yourself and other members of your community.

The White House has launched a website for Americans to order four free rapid tests to their homes, which makes them more accessible. This also gives the chance for people in the United States to have a peace of mind in case they are exposed to the virus. People gain the ability to take the rapid test(s) if available near their time of travel.

Point Park University along with pharmacies and doctor offices should supply free COVID tests for everyone. With such a severe, unpredictable virus, no one should have to be concerned if they are able to afford their only way to confirm they are healthy.

As expressed, rapid tests do work in order to detect the virus, but not as well as a PCR test. COVID-19 transmissions are still rapidly increasing and can only be prevented if CDC guidelines are followed. Point Park University students should be safe and mask-up. A limited number of KN-95 masks are now available on the 7th floor of the Student Center to use.