Scientists Investigate Why Some Rapid Tests Aren’t Picking Up Omicron; Should You Swab Your Throat, Too?

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Some prominent experts have started recommending the additional swab in the throat because omicron appears to be more concentrated there. People on social media have begun swapping instructions for how to do that with at-home test kits.

Stat: Scientists Try To Pinpoint Why Rapid Covid Tests Are Missing Some CasesMarianna Parker, a Boston-area pediatrician, wanted to make sure she, her husband, and her toddler didn’t have Covid-19 when they developed a nasty cold around Dec. 18. Over the course of a week she used five Covid rapid tests and took three PCR tests, testing negative. Her husband tested negative on a rapid test on his second day of infection but positive on his sixth, a result that was confirmed via PCR. “If he hadn’t decided to do that random test on day 6 we would never have known,” she said. Nevertheless, she’s convinced all three of them had Covid, and that the tests simply produced the wrong results. In a Facebook post, she advised friends to remember that if they are vaccinated, their tests might only be positive for a short period of time. (Herper, 1/6)

In related news about test efficacy —

Bay Area News Group: Yes, You Can Have COVID-19 But Test NegativeRapid antigen tests are quick, cheap and easy. But a new study suggests they can also be wrong, particularly about omicron. Cupertino native Nick LaRocca found that out the hard way, accidentally infecting a friend after trusting test results that were negative. “I tried to do everything the right way. I thought everything was good, even though I felt really crappy,” said vaccinated LaRocca, 36. “And I got one of my friends sick. That’s the last thing I wanted. … I was literally walking around infecting people not even knowing it. ”In the new study, antigen tests — such as Quidel’s QuickVue and Abbott’s BinaxNOW, which can be easily used at home – missed detection of COVID-19’s omicron variant during the first early days of infection. (Krieger, 1/6)

CNN: With Omicron’s Prevalence And Testing In Short Supply, Anyone With Symptoms Should Assume They’re Positive And Isolate, Doctor Says With Covid-19 tests hard to find in many parts of the country and the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, health experts are advising those with symptoms to isolate themselves if they even only suspect they have the virus. And with the recent news that rapid antigen tests may lag in detecting positive cases when compared to PCR tests, the best time to take a rapid test may be a day or two after symptoms arrive, epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina said Thursday. “The important thing is, when you feel symptoms, assume you’re positive at this point, especially with Omicron being so prevalent,” Mina said in an interview with telehealth company eMed, where he is chief medical officer. (Caldwell, 1/7)

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Chicago Tribune: Feeling Guilty, People Experience Shame For Testing Positive For COVID She’d thought through the travel for the holiday carefully. Working remotely, limiting activities to school-related outings and curbing any other possibility for exposure. And still, the second day of the trip, Christine Hutchinson’s nose felt sniffily. She thought it was related to travel, or simply being a Chicagoan: “Our noses run.” But when other people within the friend group her family had traveled with internationally also began feeling ill, she took a test. It came back positive for COVID-19. (Bowen, 1/6)

Where are all the tests? —

The Washington Post: White House, USPS Finalizing Plans To Begin Shipping Coronavirus Test Kits To U.S. HouseholdsThe White House is finalizing details with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver 500 million coronavirus test kits to households across the country, according to four people familiar with the plans, kick-starting a key part of President Biden’s response to the raging omicron variant. The administration will launch a website allowing individuals to request the rapid tests, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private planning sessions. Officials aim to begin shipping the kits by mid-January. (Bogage and Diamond, 1/6)

Bloomberg: Omicron Variant, Travel Led To Spike In Testing Demand, Abbott CEO SaysAbbott Laboratories’ top executive said that the company is ramping up production of its Covid-19 tests after the convergence of a highly contagious variant with the holiday travel season led to an unprecedented surge in demand. Chief Executive Officer Robert Ford said that Abbott expects to produce 70 million of its at-home BinaxNOW tests this month, and that “I am working with my team every day to see if we can get us to 100 million.” (Brown and Ludlow, 1/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Cost Of Covid-19 Testing Exceeds $100 For Some Families As Omicron Surges Some families say they are spending hundreds of dollars on Covid-19 testing during the surge in cases across the country, as efforts by the Biden administration and local officials to distribute free tests lag behind the Omicron variant’s rapid spread. Facing hourslong lines at free testing sites, some people have turned to companies that sell more-convenient laboratory testing options, in some cases at prices of more than $200. And until the Biden administration begins making free Covid-19 testing more widely available, some people say they will continue to pay $20 or more for over-the-counter, at-home tests. (Restuccia and Abbott, 1/6)

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland To Open 10 New COVID Testing Sites At Hospitals Throughout State Maryland is launching 10 new COVID-19 testings sites at hospitals as a surge in the virus has led to hours-long lines at testing centers throughout the state, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday. Hogan spoke at the University of Maryland’s Laurel Medical Center, a former hospital that houses one of the new testing operations. The facility reopened more than 100 hospital beds in the early months of the pandemic in spring 2020 to treat coronavirus patients. (Oxenden and Wood, 1/6)

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Health News Florida: DeSantis Clarifies That There Will Be No Restrictions On COVID Tests In Updated Guidance COVID-19 tests will continue to be available to all Floridians that need one, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday, clarifying earlier statements about recommendations the state is developing. DeSantis said the state would simply be putting out updated guidelines that would point out what is “high-value testing” versus “low-value testing” based on risk for COVID-19. He claims that a lot of people are getting tested out of fear rather than need. “If you’re somebody who is very low risk, no health problems, no symptoms, just testing over and over again is not really clinically proven to be very much of a value,” DeSantis said. “Again, you’re free to do it. But we’re putting that out there so that people understand.” (Prieur, 1/6)

Bay Area News Group: Santa Clara County Leaders Pushing For At-Home Testing To Be Swiftly Ramped UpAs omicron cases continue to spike across the region and testing sites in Santa Clara County become bombarded with requests, local leaders are now calling for at-home alternatives to get pushed out to residents to help tamper down the ever-increasing demand. “We’ve got to get on it,” said District 5 Supervisor Joe Simitian. “We’ve got to get on it fast.” Simitian wants the county to quickly distribute at-home rapid tests to residents by Jan. 25, citing a strategy that officials in Colorado and Washington, D.C. have taken, as well as countries like the United Kingdom and Singapore. While he envisions the tests could be either delivered to residents directly or picked up at a distribution center, the sheer number that he says is required to meet the demand is in the “millions” — considering the fact that the county has almost two million residents. (Greschler, 1/6)

Also —

Axios: COVID Tests And Vaccines Lift Walgreens’ Profits Walgreens increased profit projections for the rest of its fiscal year due to surging demand for at-home COVID-19 tests, drive-thru tests and vaccinations amid the latest outbreaks. Pharmacy chains continue to reap massive financial gains from the pandemic, as they often serve as the first place people go when they need a COVID test or vaccine. In 2021, Walgreens employees administered 56 million COVID vaccines and conducted 23 million COVID tests. (Herman, 1/7)

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