ADPH explains trade offs of COVID-19 rapid result tests

Updated: Jul. 6, 2020 at 10:51 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - When you're waiting for your COVID-19 test results, the sooner you hear back, the better.


We're learning there are some trade offs when it comes to those rapid tests that give you results in just minutes.

The Abbott ID Now test is what Alabama state health leaders call a point of care test.

That means you go in, you give a sample right on the spot, and then get the results before you leave.

The Alabama Department of Public Health is now reaching out to Abbot ID Now not only for more machines, but also for more kits that test for COVID-19.

But State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said those machines and tests are in short supply, and the state doesn't know when it will get more.

These point of care tests are great for emergency rooms and nursing homes where quicker results are crucial.

But there are some trade offs, according to Dr. Harris.

"This is a good test in terms of specificity. If it says you're positive, you're positive, you are. And we can believe that," he said. "Where it seems to come up a little bit short is on the sensitivity side. It has some false negatives. It misses some people who have otherwise been proven to be positive."

Dr. Harris said the other drawback is the machine only tests one sample at a time, whereas bigger laboratory machines can test over 1,000 a day.

The Department of Health and Human Services will decide how the machines and tests will be distributed around the country.

And based on our current case count, Dr. Harris sees Alabama getting more, but he doesn’t know when.

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