Fast coronavirus testing available in minutes but a cost

Is fast coronavirus testing a game-changer in the fight against the pandemic? Not according to the Moore County Health Department.

In what has become a monthly presentation to the Moore County Board Of Commissioners, Health Department Public Information Officer Matt Garner explained the two kinds of tests available – Rapid Antigen test and the PCR test (polymerase chain reaction) – at their meeting Tuesday. 

While both tests require a nasal swab at the same depth, the results from the rapid test are available in 15 to 30 minutes. “They don’t have to be processed in a lab, and they are cheap to produce, which are some of the advantages of the rapid antigen test,” said Garner. “However, with that speed comes at a cost of sensitivity and accuracy.”

The rapid tests are 85% accurate as opposed to 99% for the PCR test.

COVID-19 test samples from a free drive-thru testing event in Sept. at the New Home Baptist Church in Vass held by the Health Department.

“PCR tests are considered the gold standard. Almost every active infection can be detected with the PCR test,” said Garner. “You can receive results from a PCR test within a day. It makes more sense to utilize the PCR test as opposed to the rapid antigen test as a sole confirmatory test.”

County commissioners learned during the meeting that the federal government has dispersed rapid antigen tests to all skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Moore County. 

These facilities have elected to use PCR testing for their ongoing and bi-weekly staff testing and decided to reserve rapid antigen tests for symptomatic patients, employees and visitors, according to the Health Department.

In a previous commissioner meeting, it had been suggested that all Moore County School students be screened using the rapid testing method. That does not seem to be a consideration now. School leadership is not in favor of it because it is difficult, time-consuming and will cause staffing constraints, reported the Health Department. 

In another matter, the Board of Commissioners voted to send letters requesting continued funding to address the shortfall of broadband access in Moore County to state and federal representatives. The move came after a report from IT Director Chris Butts that showed areas of Moore County without high-speed internet services. Butts produced maps showing that northern Moore County, among other areas, where broadband is not available.

Feature photo: Matt Garner, public information officer for the Moore County Health Department, makes a presentation to the Moore County Commissioners as Commissioner Louis Gregory looks on.

Sandhills_Sentinel~Article and photos by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.

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