Get to know rapid tests before they arrive in the mail

The federal government on Tuesday activated a webpage where Americans can order free at-home COVID-19 tests. The program promises to send four rapid antigen tests to any U.S. household starting later this month.

With heavy demand stretching most testing resources thin, UW Medicine pathologist Dr. Geoff Baird says rapid antigen tests are a good go-to if you are feeling sick with symptoms of COVID-19.

“The clinical performance of an antigen rapid test is good enough such that you will get a pretty good result, a pretty reliable result,” said Baird, who is the chair of laboratory medicine and pathology.

“I think it is a great thing for someone to have either to buy at the drugstore or to have a stash of these things at home, if they have them to access – if they get the sniffles, or a fever, or a cough, or short of breath – to get a really quick idea of what this could be,” Baird said.

In previously published downloadable video assets, Baird explains how rapid antigen tests identify COVID-19 and how they differ from lab-rendered PCR (polymerase-chain reaction) tests.

UW Medicine