YORK, Pa. — There has been a lot of news lately about at-home COVID-19 tests.
When is the White House sending them out?
Where can I find one?
Will insurance pay for it?
All of those are valid questions, but with COVID-19 continuing to mutate, can these tests can even detect new variants of the virus?
FOX43 Finds Out.
Sold-out signs are posted all over south-central Pennsylvania pharmacies as people try to buy at-home COVID-19 tests.
With cases at an all-time high, as soon as someone has the sniffles they want to know if it's COVID-19 or the common cold.
Dr. Joseph Kontra, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, says at-home tests are a great place to start if you can find them.
"Those home antigen tests are very accurate and so if you are positive with a home test, that's enough to make the diagnosis," he says.
The results may not be as concrete though if you test negative -- at least the first time.
"It's very specimen quality dependent," Kontra says. "If you do a poor job at swabbing yourself, you can easily get a negative test when you're actually infected."
The doctor says that's why each test comes with multiple swabs.
"A lot of these come with two swabs in the box, and that's not so you can test two people," he says. "The idea is that you can test yourself once and if it's negative you can test yourself again in a day or a day in a half and that way with sequential testing you have more accuracy of picking up the virus."
if you're sick and test negative on an at-home test, you should get a PCR test -- which is the more sensitive COVID-19 test, according to Kontra.
Until you get those results, it's suggested you stay home because of the recent surge in cases.
"The turnaround times are longer than what we would like them to be, but I think the PCR test is a better test for those who are negative on a home antigen test," says Kontra.
The Bottom line: Yes, at-home tests can detect the virus right now.
"If you can get your hands on some, they are worth having," says Kontra.
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