PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The government is sending millions of rapid coronavirus test kits to each state. The idea is to use these in schools and nursing homes.
“The movement and the direction is the right direction. Testing is going to be the way we are going to be able to handle this pandemic,” says Dr. Jennifer Preiss, a Med Peds doctor at the Allegheny Health Network, but adds, “I’m not sure about this particular test.”
These are five dollar rapid antigen tests. They’re to be used on the spot — no special lab equipment required. Just need your nose, a swab, and the kit.
“You put whatever moisture, body fluid on this piece of paper, and then there is a reaction, and the reaction is made actually by putting drops,” Dr. Preiss explains.
Results take 15 minutes. But are they accurate?
“I know there has been problems with these rapid tests in the past, so how are you going to account for that?” says Dr. Preiss.
The gold standard remains the PCR test. So will positive rapid tests need a PCR test to double check? And what about the rapid tests missing a case?
“Are we going to be able to believe these tests?” Dr. Preiss asks.
Managing the testing and the results will be a big job. First is figuring out who to test.
“School districts and states will get together with medical officials and make some decisions about ‘are we just to test symptomatic children?’ And what does it mean to have symptoms? Are we going to test our preteens and teenagers because they seem to be bigger carriers?’” Dr. Preiss explains.
And figuring out how often to test: “On a weekly basis, on an every other week basis, and once a month basis?”
Then, what happens with the results? Where will the information be reported? And who will make decisions with the results?
“We’re asking nonmedical people to deal with medical data.” Dr. Preiss says.
Dr. Preiss also points out widespread testing in schools will require parental consent, as the vast majority of students are minors.