Tests

January 13, 2022

I have been hearing on the news about the big roll out of at-home tests to check for the virus.  This news began with the administration’s announcement of 500,000,000 tests being made available by the end of January, and then this week the number was raised to one billion tests.  These tests are to be distributed for free and tests purchased earlier are to be reimbursed by insurance.  My home state also purchased 1.5 million tests and plans to give them out for free at different locations around the state beginning this week.  Anyone in the state is eligible to get the tests but they are limited to one kit of two at-home tests per day, while each family has a daily limit of three kits that consist of six at-home tests.  More tests have been promised to arrive in the future.  Distribution of the at-home tests is happening on the honor system so recipients are being asked to keep others in mind when they come to claim their share.

When I looked online, I found the two main types of covid tests are rapid antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.  Antigen tests can be taken at home and return results in about 10 to 15 minutes.  PCR tests are more accurate but require lab work and generally do not provide results for at least 12 hours and can be up to 5 days.  Both tests typically use nasal swab samples, though some collect saliva.  The PCR tests administered by a professional may require a nasopharyngeal sample that involves a much deeper nostril swab.  Rapid antigen tests usually require swirling a swab in the nostril less than an inch deep.  PCR tests amplify genetic material from the collected sample up to a billion times to detect even the slightest amount of virus genes, making them highly accurate.  They are also more expensive at more than $100 apiece.  It is not surprising the rapid tests are given for at-home.

Melissa and I were notified by a friend that the tests were going to be distributed today at our city library beginning at 9:00 am.  The cold weather caused Melissa’s car battery to start “intermittently,” and I planned to get it checked this morning and still have enough time to get in line for our test kits.  The battery tested weak, and the dealer told me it was “up to me” whether to get a new one.  Since this was Melissa’s car, and she was taking it up north later in the day, I opted for the new battery.  When I arrived at the library, I was surprised to only see ten people standing in line.  I joined the other masked people to wait.  When 9:00 am arrived, the librarian told the group they had received and distributed 400 tests yesterday and no new tests had arrived.  Another 15-20 people pulled up expecting to receive the tests as she was relaying the news.  We got back in our cars and left.

Thoughts:  The reporting of at-home tests distribution emphasizes the trouble and expense being taken.  There are just over 3 million residents in the state of Arkansas.  As of Tuesday 600,000, of the 1.5 million at-home tests ordered have been delivered to Arkansas.  “The tests will be delivered periodically as the supply allows that to happen,” the governor said.  Best case scenario, that is enough tests for almost half of the people to take the test one time.  The 1 billion tests the federal government ordered will only test the nation’s 330 million people three times.  That implies you had better hold onto your tests until you really need them, like when you are preparing to take that cruise.  While testing is important to track spread, vaccination and wearing a mask is the only way to try and prevent spread.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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