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Do at-home COVID tests work that well?

The short answer: it depends
Posted at 6:35 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 19:35:24-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Long gone are the days when you would have to wait hours in long lines to get tested for COVID-19. Now at-home COVID tests are available at stores like Walgreens and CVS.

But are those tests really that accurate?

Gretchen Stinson said she’s done 3 at-home tests. Her husband did the first one for her, but she felt like he didn’t get into her nasal passage all that well. That test resulted in a negative COVID case, but when she took another test, she tested positive. She decided to take another test again to be sure of her status and tested negative.

“I don’t know that I would have really reported it to the County. I don’t think that information is really out there as to what you’re supposed to do. I would have called my primary,” she said.

Dr. Kim Onufrak, the clinical director for the Nueces County Corpus Christi Public Health District, said people not reporting positive cases to the health district is what worries her. She recommends doing 2 COVID tests because one of them could be a false positive. She said if you don’t swab your nose correctly, that could result in a false negative test result.

“If you do have the signs and symptoms of COVID and your first test was negative then I would still continue to quarantine and stay at home because sometimes what most people will do is test too early,” she said.

She said that the at-home tests aren’t as accurate and that the gold standard tests are the PCR tests that the public health district performs.

Annette Rodriguez, the Nueces County Corpus Christi public health director, said it’s a requirement for people to report their positive COVID case if they did do an at-home test.

She said she worries that people don’t know whether to believe the at-home tests and will then not report the COVID case.

“If you’re symptomatic And you get a negative from one of those tests, you really need to come to one of our drive-throughs they’re free and we can tests you to make sure that you don’t have COVID-19,” she said.

Rodriguez said if you are not symptomatic and the at-home test is negative, then they’re pretty accurate, but they do have false positives sometimes.

Rodriguez said if you do test positive, you can call the public health district and they will give you a number to fax your results to. She said the at-home positive cases are reflected in the COVID case numbers the county reports.

You can call them at (361)826-7200.