Biden pushes at-home testing as way out of pandemic, but availability is an obstacle

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There’s a new push to help slow down the spread of COVID-19.

In an address last week, President Joe Biden outlined his "Path Out of the Pandemic." Increasing testing was one of the six parts of the plan. Specifically, the president mentioned affordable at-home, rapid, tests as a tool to combat the virus.

Rapid tests can have results in as quick as 10 minutes.

By partnering with major retailers Walmart, Amazon and Kroger, the president said these test options will be available at a discount — and that people on Medicaid will be able to get them for free.

KSTP medical expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou says this does not take away from the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, but that it would be a “major step forward if we had greater access to rapid at-home tests.”

“You can quickly do it, know your result [and] there’s not a barrier to getting tested,” Georgiou said. “That’s where it’s going to help most.”

Access may be already proving to be a hurdle in Biden’s plan. A search on Amazon showed most rapid tests were out of stock and a visit to a couple of metro Walmarts showed empty shelves where their at-home tests should be. Pharmacists mentioned at both locations that when they do have the tests in stock, they’re bought quickly.

With production expected to ramp up following the President’s address, if this is a route you and your family would like to take, Dr. Georgiou says there are a few things to know:

  • Do your research.
  • Make sure the at-home test is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • If the test is for children, make sure the test is approved for their age range.
  • Make sure you do the test correctly.
  • It may sound obvious, but this makes sure the test is as accurate as possible.
  • Pre-order or have them ready at home.
  • This will allow you and your family to take the test if needed right away.

As for the accuracy of the rapid tests, Georgiou says ones approved by the FDA are best, with some having a range of 86-88% sensitivity rate. According to the FDA, tests that high will result in few people with antibodies being missed by the test.

Free at-home testing is still an option in Minnesota. While it’s not the rapid test, it’s still a quick and accurate option for those who would like to take a test at home.

There are also free community testing sites still open.