At-home COVID tests: Sarasota-Manatee expert explains what you need to know
If you start exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or have a known exposure, your first reaction may be to get tested.
While both pharmacies and local organizations have COVID-19 testing options in Sarasota and Manatee counties, long lines and booked appointments can deter some from getting tested immediately. But there is another option medical experts say can be effective – at-home self-tests that can be purchased at local pharmacies, like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. Many online retailers of the tests are currently sold out.
Vaccination & testing:Where to get a COVID-19 vaccine or test in Sarasota and Manatee counties
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Although it may feel less comfortable than getting tested at a doctor’s office or a drive-through mass testing site, at-home antigen tests are roughly as accurate as PCR tests when taken during the symptomatic phase of infection, according to Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System’s laboratory services director, Harold Vore.
Even if you're not symptomatic, at-home antigen tests are as reliable as rapid antigen tests received elsewhere, according to Vore.
If you have symptoms and get a positive result from an at-home antigen test, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers you positive. You do not need additional testing. But if you have symptoms and receive a negative test, the CDC recommends that you also get a follow-up PCR or NAAT test.
Antigen tests may not be able to identify COVID-19 if it is early on in the virus’ infection progression. Those recently exposed to someone with COVID-19 who don’t have symptoms can also receive a false negative on an at-home antigen test.
Vore recommends choosing an at-home kit that has U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization labeling. The FDA maintains a list of authorized test kits here. Sarasota County Schools accepts the Ellume COVID-19 home test if it has a lab report that includes the date the test was taken, the student’s full name and their date of birth.
For those who don’t want to take an at-home test, wait times at local Sarasota County sites were relatively short this week, according to Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County spokesperson Steve Huard. Operations at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex, Ed Smith Stadium and North Port’s Dallas White Park saw wait times between 15 to 30 minutes. The former Sarasota Kennel Club experienced wait times of about an hour, Huard said.
What you need to know about at-home COVID-19 tests
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms and get a positive result, you are considered positive
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms and get a negative result, you should get a PCR test
- If you were exposed but don't have symptoms, you should get a PCR test because at-home and rapid antigen tests can return false-negative results
- prices of the Ellume COVID019 home test ranges from $30-$45, but some retailers are currently sold-out
This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire and engage the community to take action on issues related to COVID-19 Response.