How accurate are take-home COVID-19 tests? Our medical expert weighs in

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — At-home COVID-19 antigen tests: How they work, how to find one, and what our medical expert says about their accuracy.

The COVID-19 Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as previous variants, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

According to new data, Duval County is an area that has a high level of transmission for COVID-19. That means the virus is easily passed on from one person to another.

Now, more people are choosing to get tested for the virus, and some are taking it into their own hands and picking up an at-home test.

We took a closer look at how at-home COVID-19 antigen tests work and spoke with our Action News Jax Medical Expert, Dr. Michelle Aquino, about whether you can trust the results.

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People waited in line in their cars, for the chance to get tested for COVID-19, at a Telescope Health COVID-19 testing site today.

According to this tweet from Telescope Health, they reached capacity, after “overwhelming site traffic this morning.” It caused them to turn additional patients away until tomorrow.

There was also a line for COVID-19 testing at the Department of Health’s Central Health Plaza in Downtown Jacksonville. That’s where Cole met Espree Leaks.

She asked Leaks how long she had to wait to get tested.

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“Like 30 to 45 minutes. So it wasn’t that bad, and it moves pretty quickly,” Leaks told Cole.

She said this was her second time coming to get tested. She’s a certified nursing assistant.

“Now they’re making it where we have to get tested every four days,” Leaks explained.

Some who have to test this frequently, are opting to test themselves for the virus.

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Leaks told Cole she had no idea she could test herself, from the comfort of her own home.

“I probably would’ve just got one and picked it up, because I’m in healthcare anyway, so I already know how to do it,” Leaks said.

Cole wanted to see how easy it was to use an at-home COVID-19 test, so she picked one up from a local pharmacy. But it took three stops before she was finally able to find one at a local CVS.

She found that at-home COVID-19 antigen tests generally can cost between $24.00-$48.00 and can be as expensive as $124.00 dollars.

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The COVID-19 test Cole purchased, the BinaxNOW, comes with two tests per box, which include the swab, the test card, and the liquid that helps detect COVID-19.

Cole took the test, timed out 15 minutes, and only one pink line remained, indicating her results are negative.

But how do you know if you can trust the results? Cole asked our Action News Jax Medical Expert, Dr. Michelle Aquino. Here’s what she had to say:

“These at-home tests are actually fairly sensitive. So, I think the short answer is yes. And when you look at a lot of the tests over the counter, what I was able to see is, a lot of them are between 86-and-up-to-96% sensitive. The numbers look good and so I think these tests are definitely something you can trust.”

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Leaks told Cole this information might save her another trip to the health department.

“I might have to look that up, go and see about that, because I didn’t know, I really didn’t know,” Leaks said.

If you do venture into the aisles of a local pharmacy, don’t assume they don’t have any because the shelves are empty.

An employee at one of the local pharmacies told Cole, some stores are keeping the tests behind the counter, to stop people from buying all of them up from other customers.