Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests Are Back: Should You Restock?
September 26, 2023
This week, the federal government announced it will again offer free COVID-19 at-home tests this fall. Jenny Prentice, director of laboratory services, answers questions on how to ensure test kit results are accurate, if they can detect the latest variants and why it’s important to continue taking precautions to slow the spread.
Q: How can individuals ensure they are getting the most accurate results from an at-home COVID-19 test?
A: COVID-19 test kits expire and the older ones are not as sensitive. When you use an expired test, you are risking a false negative. The expiration date is a hard stop. If you’re buying one, just like when you are grocery shopping, it’s best to check the expiration date and get the freshest one.
Q: Will the new COVID-19 test kits be able to detect the latest variants?
A: Yes. They (the manufacturers) haven’t made a new ‘recipe.’ The test looks for an area (on the virus) that doesn’t change very often, so it detects all the variants.
Q: With case rates increasing in Washington, should you use an at-home test if you have symptoms?
A: I would definitely use a test kit if you have symptoms. If you’ve been exposed, test within a couple of days, especially if you weren’t masked at the time of exposure. Get tested, unless you are going to remain masked after being exposed. Stopping the trend is extremely important.
Q: How many test kits should I have at home?
A: Get at least one for everyone in your household.
Q: Why is it important to continue taking these precautions?
A: Hospitals are full; hospitals in the area are really busy, so if we can keep ourselves and our families healthy, there will be room for cases like heart issues or stroke—things that can’t be avoided so easily.