Lowcountry doctor warns about relying heavily on rapid tests

Updated: Nov. 23, 2020 at 3:09 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A Lowcountry doctor is concerned about the over-reliance of rapid tests used to detect the coronavirus.

Doctor Barron Nason is the owner of NasonCare. He says they are seeing an increase in the number of false negative test from rapid tests.

“The issue with the rapid test and the molecular one, which is the one we use, is the accuracy,” Nason said. “We are seeing a very large number of false negatives with the 15 minute rapid test.”

Nason says he had a sports team that was tested by the coach that revealed two positives cases using the rapid test.

Then some of the other players began showing coronavirus symptoms.

“We then tested them with the molecular test and four of the people who had coronavirus had tested negative with the rapid test,” Nason said. “I think that is potential risk if people are overly confident that they are not contagious when they do indeed carry the virus.”

The Food and Drug Administration says the rapid test is “usually highly accurate, but false positives can happen.” It also says the rapid test is more likely to miss a positive case and that a negative test result may need to be confirmed with a molecular test if a patient has symptoms.

While the test itself may be rapid, getting one may not.

Nason says it is simply better to get a more accurate, non-rapid test.

“There is no walk-in appointment for rapid tests. If you want to go to one of the pharmacies for the rapid tests you have to make an appointment and it may take 4 or 5 days to make your appointment,” Nason said. “Whereas at one of the facilities like NasonCare there are no appointments, so you can walk in and get your test and in just a couple of days have your results.”

You can find a list of DHEC testing locations here. This does not mean the rapid test should be scrapped altogether. Nason says it is a useful tool in the right circumstances.

“If we are just randomly screening thousands of people, it’s okay to have a lower accuracy rate,” Nason said. “The flu test itself is not a very accurate test.”

Nason says if anyone comes into his clinic with COVID symptoms, he is treating that patient as if they have COVID until a molecular test result shows otherwise.

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