Amid the COVID-19 resurgence, the federal government is once again providing tests to all US households at no charge. Every household can order four test kits through covid.gov/tests. These rapid antigen tests give results in less than 30 minutes. These tests do not detect the virus quite as well as laboratory PCR tests, resulting in a higher number of false negatives. This means that even if you test negative for the virus, you should test again 48 hours later. Studies show that repeat testing significantly improves the accuracy of the tests. On the other hand, false negatives are extremely rare. A positive result indicates that your body has high viral levels and you would likely spread it to others in your vicinity.
The CDC recommends that you use the tests under the following circumstances:
- You experience symptoms such as fever, runny nose, sore throat or loss of smell/taste
- Five or more days after being in close contact with a person who has COVID-19
- Prior to gathering with a big group of people, particularly those who are more susceptible to severe illness or have not received a COVID-19 vaccine for a long period of time.
For more information, see: CDC