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South Central Health Districts plan for rapid antigen COVID tests

Posted at 8:07 PM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 22:15:53-04

TWIN FALLS — The Rapid Antigen tests are part of the 530,000 tests that Governor Little announced earlier this month. Thus far, around 35,000 have been distributed. The South Central Public health district has received 4,000 BinaxNow rapid antigen tests to help test staff and students in local area school districts more quickly and efficiently. The average wait time for a standard molecular PCR COVID test is about three to four days. The rapid test can give results in around 15-20 minutes.

However, while the district possesses the tests, they do not have the staff, proper materials, or policies to conduct the tests themselves. They have begun reaching out to other nearby medical facilities for assistance.

Public information officer for the South Central Health District, Brianna Bodily, said, "Everyone that we have approached with this idea is either a clinic or a physician's office in some way. So they've already provided some sort of medical help."

Some medical providers may even be placed in the schools themselves for testing, yet those details are still being ironed out.

Due to the limited amount of tests, discussions are being had on determining which staff and students get tested. One decision that was made clear was that people in the high-risk exposure category are a top priority.

"So if somebody has a confirmed case of COVID-19, then we might test a cluster of people that are around them to see if this is spreading. And if those people all text negative, then we have a pretty good idea that that person didn't infect anybody around them," said Bodily.

While the rapid test is quicker, they're not as effective in diagnosing an active infection as a PCR test. Someone that tests positive using the antigen test would be labeled as a probable case but not confirmed. They would then need to seek out an additional PCR test or treatment from a local healthcare provider.

False negatives are also an area of concern, "The window for false negatives is quite a bit larger than molecular PCR tests. Now, with that said, it's still an effective tool. We just have to be careful about how we use it so that we don't give anyone a false sense of security," said Bodily.

Those who receive a negative may be encouraged to receive a PCR test at a later date to confirm the result or if symptoms develop.

Despite the concern, school districts are eager to have these tests available. Eva Kraner, the Director of Public Relations for the Twin Falls School District, said, "Being able to provide a rapid test for those individuals who have symptoms could allow us to act more quickly and take precautions in a way that's more meaningful. Rather than we're going to wait 3 or 4 days until you get test results until we take any actions on a suspected COVID case."

Since there still details the health district and school districts need to go over, there is no known date as to when these tests will be available. However South Central Health Public Health hopes to have it ready as soon as possible.