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At-home COVID tests quick and reliable but results may not always be accurate

Valley physicians stress the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations and testing this holiday season as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads across the country.


The highly contagious COVID-19 omicron variant continues to spread across the country. Medical experts stress the importance of being vaccinated and receiving a booster shot if eligible.  

Testing is also a priority and many people who are traveling or spending time with family and friends are looking for at-home COVID-19 tests that provide quick results within 15 minutes, but those tests can result in false negatives.  

“When you do them perfectly and get the right amount of specimen; enough specimen is very, very important in asymptomatic person, you're still going to be right only 85% of the time," said Dr. Frank LoVecchio with Valleywise Health Medical Center.    

That is when a clinician is conducting the test.  

However, Dr. LoVecchio points to a Center for Disease Control study in Pima County that found nearly 36% of asymptomatic positive patients using at-home tests received a false negative result.  

“What they don’t factor in is the human error," said Dr. LoVecchio.  

Tips for at-home COVID-19 tests:  

“Those rapid tests are reliable but not always accurate," said Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, family physician and regional medical director with One Medical. 

1. Fully saturate the nasal swab with a sample  

2. Swab both nostrils for 15 seconds each    

3. Circulate the swab in the mixture provided 

4. Hold the swab firmly in the middle of the swab 

When performing the at-home test, Dr. Bhuyan stresses the importance of fully saturating the nasal swab. "We insert this into the nose about half an inch to 3/4ths of an inch,” said Dr. Bhuyan. "Swirl 15 seconds for both nostrils and do five circles," said Dr. Bhuyan. "I'm turning the swab as I swirl the swab."  

Omicron is spreading  

"Across the nation, we are seeing an increase in cases in particular on the east coast, but we expect to see a surge in the coming weeks in Arizona," said Dr. Bhuyan. "There are two factors; omicron and more cases because of people gathering for the holidays."  

Dr. Bhuyan says people who know they have been exposed to Covid-19 should test several times.  

What should you do if you test positive at home? 

"Stay at home and isolate for 10 days," said Dr. Bhuyan. "Many people will get better, but there are some people whose symptoms can get worse and you should let your primary care physician know because you might need higher levels of treatment like monoclonal antibodies."  

COVID-19 Testing Options   

Both CVS and Walgreens have online Covid-19 appointments.  

Embry Health also has Covid-19 testing appointments.  

Testing location available across the state through the Arizona Department of Health Services. 


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