There are two types of COVID tests:
- PCR Tests. The most accurate available, but the turnaround time is often several days. That makes the result less useful because we don’t know to isolate or how to treat as soon as we need to.
- Antigen Tests. Fast (about 15 minutes) and reasonably accurate, but less so than PCR. In particular, it can fail to pick up asymptomatic infections.
Until now. The NFL, in cooperation with BioReference Laboratories and Mesa BioTech, has created a PCR test that can be resulted in 30 minutes. In a study of 917 people, the results on this rapid PCR were identical to those of a traditional PCR.
If this is used in combination with rapid antigen tests (more widely available) to confirm the test result (likely when there’s a positive result and no symptoms, or a negative result with symptoms), it could make accurate diagnosis much faster.
This is not available to the public currently, but here’s hoping it will be soon!
I recently had a possible COVID-19 exposure when a close friend tested positive. I needed to know right away whether I was infected so I could avoid exposing my wife. With multi-hour waits at many test sites and long turnaround times for results, I knew the usual test sites weren’t an option.
Instead, I went to Formation Health in Midtown Manhattan. I had no appointment and showed up at 7:30pm. I was the only patient (there were 2 medical staff) and they saw me immediately. I was in an out of their office in 10 minutes and had my (negative!) result in 15 minutes. My wife did the same and got her negative results right before I did (kudos to her for finding the place!). This clinic has extensive hours, 7 days a week.
This rapid test-and-isolate model is what can defeat this virus. You get the result quickly and you don’t take the chance of exposing yourself to COVID at the test site itself.
The test is the BD Veritor antigen test. It has a high degree of accuracy, though not quite as high as a PCR test. But it is readily available with quick results you can act on immediately. The physician I spoke to through my own insurance (not Formation) assured me that with no symptoms and a negative test result, I was negative with no need to isolate.
If a person had a negative test but had typical COVID symptoms, or if they had a positive test but no symptoms, they could also get a confirmatory PCR test, which is the most accurate test available.
The cost was $195. Your insurance may cover it. For me, the extra cost was well worth it for the extraordinary service, safety of the test site, and fast, actionable results. That said, unfortunately, the cost could be a barrier for some.
Stay well everyone!