From the beginning of the pandemic, essential public spaces have instituted COVID temperature checks as a precautionary measure. But for testing itself, it’s common to have to wait a few days for results. In mid-2020, however, rapid and even instant forms of coronavirus tests became available, and with them, the potential for a massive paradigm shift. Workplaces are understandably eager to get back to business as usual, and instant testing plays an enormous role in that. Still, it’s essential to understand both the limitations and the potential of rapid workplace COVID-19 testing.
About Rapid Testing
COVID temperature checks are indeed instant, but are temperature checks adequate? COVID temperature screening can identify a common symptom of the virus, but as the World Health Organization points out, temperature checks for COVID by themselves are not an effective method for stopping the spread. Community and workplace safety levels skyrocket when you can replace COVID temperature screenings with an on-the-spot COVID test. These quick tests fall into two basic categories: transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (PT-PCR) and rapid antigen tests.
Sometimes dubbed “espresso coffee” or “deluxe antigen” tests, PT-PCR tests excel in sensitivity but require a machine (or sometimes even a third-party lab) to process results. Due to their accuracy, PCR tests are known as the gold standard method.
While rapid paper antigen, or “instant coffee,” tests are not as sensitive as the PCR “espresso” tests, they provide instantaneous results. Similar to a pregnancy test, when the rapid paper antigen test strips come into contact with saliva, an embedded antibody causes the strip to show either a negative or positive result.
In early 2021, even more point-of-care home testing kits joined the fray, often with compatible apps to report results. These over-the-counter tests use both antigen and molecular tech to provide results in roughly 15 to 20 minutes with accuracy rates above 90%.
What Rapid Testing Can Achieve
Especially with an increasingly vaccinated population, Scientific American proclaims that “daily or near-daily testing could be the key to opening our society.” That’s only possible with affordable, accessible rapid and instant testing. The same source argues that a test that turns positive during the period in which an individual can spread the virus to others is more valuable to controlling the spread than a “perfect” test.
Reliability and Precautions
While their cost and speed are ideal, antigen tests may miss asymptomatic COVID-19 infections, skewing instead toward picking up cases among those who already exhibit symptoms. In fact, an early 2021 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one particular brand of antigen test only identified 34% of asymptomatic infections. PCR tests are more accurate in this sense.
Ultimately, we can’t view instant tests as a “free pass” to resume life as normal. To offset the danger of false negatives, it’s still important to adhere to safety standards such as masking, social distancing, hand washing and disinfecting even after receiving a negative test result. Likewise, it’s absolutely key that those who experience coronavirus symptoms consult their primary health care provider, regardless of a negative antigen test result.
How BRIO Can Help
Test manufacturers number in the hundreds, and every test comes with data on laboratory trials regarding its potential sensitivity. Long story short, it’s a whole lot to parse through. That’s where BRIO comes in. In addition to streamlining the process of ordering and managing tests and delivering results, we work with accredited labs and experts to keep you compliant with local testing requirements.
Our trusted partner network of both labs and couriers ensures that not only do companies receive fast results, but those results are also delivered in a format that’s easy to access via our purpose-built and secure digital dashboards. You’ll feel less burden around the logistics of COVID testing – that’s the work we do, so you can get back to doing the work you do, safer and sooner.
Dan Ketchum has been an LA-based freelance writer for over a decade, with past work published by USA Today, The Seattle Times and The San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate. In the healthcare realm, he’s grateful to have collaborated with organizations such as LIVESTRONG, AZ Central Healthy Living, Eucerin, Jillian Michaels, Healthfully and Cetaphil.
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Scientific American - “Instant Coffee” COVID-19 Tests Could be the Answer to Reopening the U.S.