How long does a home COVID-19 test take?
COVID-19 returned to southwestern Ohio and northern Kentucky as two omicron subvariants emerged as the locally predominant infection strain. But if you’re looking to shake the dust off your rapid home antigen tests for use before a late summer vacation or a visit to Grandma’s, there are some factors to consider.
The first is efficiency. Although studies regarding the accuracy of home tests have been performed specifically on the previous variants, experts say the sensitivity of the tests should be sufficient to detect BA.4 and BA.5, two highly infectious omicron subvariants that occur are currently spreading throughout Ohio and the Cincinnati area.
A study of the effectiveness of BinaxNow, a commonly used rapid home antigen test, found that the BinaxNow test accurately recorded a positive result in 95% of samples also found positive by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. .
“What we don’t know is is it as good with the BA.4, BA.5 omicron as it is with BA.1 and BA.2?” said Dr. Stephen Feagins, clinical director of Mercy Health Cincinnati. “It’s just the best we’ve had. We think even with BA.4, BA.5, that 95% is probably somewhere similar.”
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The tests, if used within the appropriate expiry times, will provide accurate results regardless of the variant, said Amanda Carter, Hamilton County Public Health spokeswoman. The department recommends continuing to use the tests for a number of situations you might find yourself in as a case and hospitalizations are increasing.
“Anytime you can take an extra step to mitigate the spread, whether it’s taking a proactive test before seeing someone at high risk, whether you’re from a county with high community spread, we recommend testing to anyone who wants to be on the safe side and take preventative measures,” Carter said.
FDA extends expiration dates
Expiry dates are a second important factor. While you may have a home test that appears to have expired, you’ll want to check for extended expiration dates posted in May. The date printed on the box could be the wrong expiration date, given the extensions.
The following home tests have had their shelf life extended by the FDA.
- BinaxNow AG Card Home Test (extended 12-15 months).
- BinaxNow Antigen Self Test (extended 12-15 months).
- CareStart Antigen Home Test (extended from 9 to 12 months).
- Flowflex Antigen Home Test (extended from 12 to 16 months).
- Celltrion DIaTrust AG Home Test (extended from 12 to 18 months).
- Detect COVID-19 test (extended 6-8 months)
- iHealth Antigen Rapid Test (extended from 9 to 12 months).
- SCoV-2 Ag Detect Rapid Self Test (extended 10-13 months).
- At-home pilot test (extended 6-9 months).
The expiration dates for these tests remain the same, according to the FDA.
- BD Veritor home test (6 months).
- Cue Test for home and at the counter (4 months).
- Ellume home test (12 months).
- Genabio rapid self-test kit (18 months).
- Lucira Check-It test kit (6 months).
- MaximBio ClearDetect Antigen home test (6 months).
- Inteliswab rapid test (9 months).
- OHC antigen self-test (8 months).
- Indicaid Rapid Antigen home test (12 months).
- QuickView home test (12 months).
- Clinitest rapid antigen self-test (11 months).
- Speedy Swab rapid antigen self-test (6 months).
- Rapid antigen test card (6 months).
The FDA recommends discontinuing tests that have expired beyond the extension dates. The risks are that the tests can dry out and over time and will not give an accurate test result.
“Any time beyond the extended period, it’s time to retest,” Carter said.
Feagins agreed, noting it makes sense to have peace of mind given the availability of home testing.
“After doing some research and checking the actual expiration date and realizing it’s even past the extended expiration date, there’s a ton of these tests out there, go ahead and get a new one “, did he declare.
Last Thursday, the Cincinnati-area community risk level was raised to “high,” triggering an indoor mask recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, an accurate picture of the extent of community spread has become much more difficult since the widespread use of home testing began.
As more people use home testing, officials worry that many results will go unreported and an accurate tabulation of community spread will be impossible to obtain.
At a COVID-19 press briefing in May, Dr. Ashish Jha, the Federal COVID-19 Response Coordinator, described the challenge the testing presented.
“Home testing is great, by the way,” Jha said. “I’ve been a big fan of home testing for two years. But that means we’re clearly underestimating infections – underestimating cases.”
Instead of using case counts as a reliable number, many communities are now looking to trends in hospitalizations.
Although intensive care unit beds filled with COVID patients remain low locally, the Cincinnati area has seen an increase in hospitalizations since the start of the month. As of Thursday, there were 197 hospitalized COVID patients in the region, a number that has increased by nearly 80 patients in two weeks, according to the Health Collaborative’s Situational Dashboard. The region’s medical surgery beds are 97% full, while intensive care beds are 93% occupied, according to the latest data.
Upgrading to a high community level, which is determined by looking at used hospital beds, hospital admissions and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area, recommends a number of preventative measures .
- Wear a properly fitted mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status (including K-12 schools and other indoor community settings).
- If you are immunocompromised or at high risk of serious illness: Wear a mask or respirator that gives you better protection; Consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you may be exposed; Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to take any other precautions (eg, testing); Have a plan for rapid testing if necessary (for example, having home testing or having access to testing); Talk to your health care provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies.
- If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk of serious illness: consider self-testing for infection before contact; consider wearing a mask when you are indoors with them.
- Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and reminders.
- Maintain improved ventilation in interior spaces where possible.
- Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19.
In-person testing can be arranged by visiting the Health Collaborative’s Test and Protect Cincy website, where you can find a schedule and appointment information.
To help agencies better understand the spread in the community, local health departments have asked people who use home tests to self-report positive tests. Some tests administered by a doctor, clinic, or health service are proctored, which means a member of staff watches the test being administered and the result through a smartphone or app.
But home tests bought from a store or obtained by the government are not monitored. If you take a home test and receive a positive result, here’s how you can report it to your local jurisdiction.
Hamilton County Public Health is not tracking COVID-19 home test results. If you are located within the Cincinnati city limits, the Cincinnati Department of Health has three options for self-reporting: by visiting the department’s designated online questionnaire via a browser, by scanning the QR code to access the questionnaire or by calling the results at 513-357-7462.
People who are not in Cincinnati can report their result to their doctor, Carter said.