Updated: Nov 3, 2021
All those minutes you've spent standing outside the south gym, waiting for a nurse to give you a side glance and briefly motion you to step forward. How many of those moments have you ever really thought about the swab you are putting up your nose? What test is it? How does it work? What does it do?
There are two types of COVID-19 test categories that three main tests fall under. First there are diagnostic tests, which are taken with a swab or saliva sample and show if you currently have the COVID-19 virus. This is the category that Rapid and PCR tests fall under. Then there are Antibody tests, which are blood tests.
Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction tests, or better known as PCR tests, are considered to be the most available current COVID-19 tests, as well as the most accurate. PCR tests are normally conducted using a nasal or throat swab. The swab tests RNA, Ribonucleic acid, because SARS-coV-2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19, uses RNA as its genetic material. Pathogens are any bacteria or microorganism that can cause diseases. So, PCR tests are best at detecting the virus in early stages.
Rapid tests, also known as Antigen tests can be taken on sight or in the comfort of your own home. Due to the fact that you can buy rapid tests at CVS and get your results back in less than 30 minutes it’s no wonder they have grown in popularity. The reliability and consistency of them however seems to fall short. According to the FDA, “ Negative results may need to be confirmed with a molecular test [PCR tests].”
Antibody tests are blood tests. Unlike Rapid or PCR tests, they do not use nose or mouth swabs, instead they take a blood sample using a finger stick or blood draw. Antibody tests tell you if you previously have had COVID-19, it cannot however show if you have COVID-19 at the time of the tests, nor can you get diagnosed with COVID-19 during the test. At most locations you will get your test results back that day, but it can take up to three days.
So what tests does ERHS use? You probably know that we don’t use antibody tests, due to the fact that you aren’t getting your blood drawn every week, it just wouldn’t be practical or make any sense. Not wanting to risk a chance of a COVID outbreak with the inaccuracy of Rapid testing, ERHS along with the rest of LAUSD, uses PCR tests due to their convenience and higher accuracy rate. $350 million dollars have been spent on school tests throughout the second largest school district in the country, with 500,000 tests a week.
Waiting in line outside the south gym in 90 degree weather, for the healthcare worker who needed a break 5 hours ago to call “next”, may not be how you would prefer to spend your time, but hey, it's better than PE!
“Coronavirus Testing Basics” fda.gov
“Covid-19 and PCR Testing” clevelandclinic.org https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/21462-covid-19-and-pcr-testing
“Different Types of COVID Tests Explained” health.ucdavis.edu https://health.ucdavis.edu/health-news/newsroom/different-types-of-covid-19-tests-explained/2020/11
“Which COVID Test Is Accurate?” yalemedicine.org https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/which-covid-test-is-accurate