haven’t yet developed symptoms. But at that stage, “if you have such a small amount of virus, you’re not likely to be very contagious to others,” notes Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Looking for certainty? PCR tests are considered the “gold standard” for detecting and diagnosing COVID, but they have their drawbacks as well.
PCR tests are so accurate that they can detect the genetic material of old coronavirus debris in your body, long after you’re well and all the live virus inside you has been eliminated.
“The PCR test can continue to be positive for a substantial period of time, literally weeks,” Schaffner points out. “It’s not really a good test for getting you out of isolation.”
There have been concerns that some antigen and molecular tests might not be able to detect the Omicron variant as well as prior COVID variants. The FDA has noted this concern, but is still investigating.
Where can you find a test?
Antigen tests are sold over the counter and are available at pharmacies, big-box stores like Walmart and Target, and online retailers like Amazon.
However, as many consumers have found out, the Omicron surge is causing spot shortages of the tests. “It’s not always available at every pharmacy that you go in and want to buy it,” Schaffner says.
Before running out to the pharmacy, you might want to first call your doctor’s office or community health center to see if they have any rapid tests on hand, Freeman suggests.
“If you are a patient at a community health center or a rural health center, your best bet is going to be to contact your provider and those tests should be available at those centers,” Freeman says.
You also should check with your local health department, to see if test kits are being handed out anywhere in your community. For example, “there are libraries, at least in my area, that have been distributing free tests as well,” Freeman notes.
President Joe Biden has promised to make 500 million test kits available to Americans, on top of