Local health leaders warn people to not rely solely on at-home tests as interest in testing opportunities increase


FILE – This Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 file photo shows a BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories, in Tacoma, Wash. On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, the FDA said Abbott’s BinaxNow and Quidel’s QuickVue tests can now be sold without a prescription for consumers to test themselves repeatedly at home. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Richmond, Va. (WRIC)–Local health leaders are warning people to not solely rely on at-home COVID-19 tests when experiencing symptoms and possible exposure.

Dr. Melissa Viray, with the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, addressed the city’s COVID-19 response during Mayor Levar Stoney’s weekly briefing on Wednesday. She said there is a high COVID-19 case count and hospitalizations.

“We continue to be in high community transmission here in Richmond city,” Viray said.

This has led to a high interest in testing and testing availability.

“There’s an increase in demand. I think there is a strong preference for rapid testing over regular PCR testing,” Viray said.

She says at-home COVID-19 test kits give people one more option to get tested. However, because they are all antigen tests, she’s concerned about their results.

“With the antigen tests not being as sensitive as the PCR tests, that the concern for me is that you may have a false negative,” Dr. Viray said.

She said the at-home tests are great for monitoring symptoms and possible exposure.

“If you have an at-home test and you have a positive, these are pretty specific tests,” Viray said. “Right now with high transmission rates, I would say you should isolate.”

If you’re symptomatic and receive a negative test result, Viray encouraged people to follow up with a doctor’s visit and PCR test.

“You should strongly consider going to a healthcare provider to be assessed, to be evaluated and perhaps get a follow-up test with a healthcare provider,” she advised.

The health district said they aren’t aware of any studies right now that analyze accuracy rates for at-home tests. At this time, case rates are highest among people under 30. The city is also seeing a leveling or dip in COVID-19 cases, according to Viray.

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