Rapid Antigen Testing – Negative Implications?

Angie Szumlinski Studies

In an article published on July 27, 2020 in the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, they identified a reason for concern with the rapid COVID-19 tests being used in our long-term care facilities. In about 15% of tests being performed using the rapid antigen test, 15% of infected people are given a false negative result.

Yes, these tests are faster (15 minutes) and cheaper; however, the stakes couldn’t be higher. As of July 24, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in 42 states reported 59,506 COVID-19 deaths- that’s 44% of all COVID-19 deaths in those states. The Department of Health and Human Services said in an email to Bloomberg Law that negative antigen test results “from patients with symptom onset beyond five days, should be treated as presumptive” and shouldn’t be “used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions, including infection control decisions.” HHS, the Food and Drug Administration, and the test manufacturers recommend confirming negative results with a more accurate polymerase chain reaction or PCR test, if necessary.

The American Health Care Association said in an email that packaging for both tests indicates that negative tests should be considered “presumptive” and confirmed with a PCR test. “We are currently advising providers to follow their state and local public health guidelines and requirements for use of these tests.”