SC health officials hope rapid COVID tests add extra layer of protection before omicron, holiday surge
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The threat of Omicron, a rise in COVID cases due to increased holiday travel, and other seasonal viruses has South Carolina health officials on guard this winter. However, they hope wider availability of rapid COVID test kits will help keep South Carolinians safe.
At-home COVID-19 antigen tests like Abbott’s BinaxNOW and Quidel’s QuickVue cost about $25 for two tests, can be found online and at pharmacies, and give users results in a matter of minutes.
“They allow someone to test and see if someone has COVID right then and there,” said DHEC Director Dr. Brannon Traxler.
Traxler acknowledged that while these tests are in short supply in large cities like New York and Washington D.C., where the surge of Omicron is more prominent, they are easier to find in South Carolina.
WIS visited four pharmacies Tuesday and was able to find tests at each one.
Previously, health officials cautioned people that antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests at finding asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 and detecting people with lower COVID viral loads. While that is still accurate, experts say they are good at telling people if they are at risk of spreading COVID-19 to people the day they take the test.
“These are not as accurate as those PCRs where you go to the lab and it takes a couple days. But, they are still quite accurate. Especially if people have symptoms and test positive,” Traxler said.
She explained these tests have a low false-positive rate, which means if they come out positive it is likely that is the case. Knowing this information is particularly beneficial as other respiratory viruses spread this holiday season and South Carolina enters a difficult flu season.
“While last year may have been an anomaly due to COVID-19, this year’s numbers are still significantly higher than numbers we saw pre-pandemic,” Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said.
Traxler is encouraging people who plan to gather this holiday season to take a rapid test before meeting with family to add an extra layer of protection.
“If you are negative you can assume that is an accurate result and at that point in time you weren’t infected and spreading the virus,” Traxler said.
For more on antigen testing and to find a COVID testing location near you go here.
Copyright 2021 WIS. All rights reserved.
Notice a spelling or grammar error in this article? Click or tap here to report it. Please include the article’s headline.