Doctors say don't rely on singular at-home COVID tests
Doctors say there is a time and a place for at-home COVID-19 tests.
"I think they have a role to play. But I think people need to understand when to rely on them and when it’s not smart to rely on them," Dr. Nancy Nielsen, the Senior Associate Dean of Health Policy at the University at Buffalo, said.
Doctors said at-home COVID tests are best used as a preventative measure, like before going to a gathering or visiting someone vulnerable.
"You do a test two or three days in a row, and they’re all negative, go for it. But don’t rely on one because in an asymptomatic person, the rapid tests are about as good as a flip of a coin," Dr. Nielsen said.
Dr. Nielsen said you should not rely on a singular at-home test negative result because you may have the virus, just not enough for the test to detect it at that point in time. That's why she recommended taking the test two to three times over the course of a few days.
Doctors said you shouldn't rely on a singular at-home test negative result especially if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
"And the rapid at home tests are negative, it’s important to either repeat that test in 12, 24, or 36 hours because of the lower sensitivity or go ahead and get a PCR test which is more sensitive," Dr. Thomas Russo, Professor and Chief of Infectious Disease at the University at Buffalo, said.
However, if the at-home test comes back positive, doctors said you probably have COVID-19.
"You ought to confirm it, but you shouldn’t go out. You should isolate yourself until you get a PCR test," Dr. Nielsen said.
If you can't get a PCR test to confirm your at-home positive, doctors said you need to report that positive to the health department.
"I am very worried about people finding out they’re positive and not reporting it to the health department because that would be awful. That would be awful," Dr. Nielsen said.
Dr. Russo said he thinks there are more COVID cases out there than the health department has reported because of at-home positive results.
"There’s little question in my mind that whatever the case count is in Western New York and elsewhere because of the increased use of home tests that are not being reported, we have many more cases than the official count," Dr. Russo said.