COVID testing sites, not at-home kits, should be fortified in light of omicron surge


Ernesto Gutierrez

The Biden administration is investing in sending millions of rapid antigen tests to U.S. households.

Ernesto Gutierrez, Reporter

With the latest rise of COVID-19 cases tied to the omicron surge, the United States should prioritize making COVID test distribution faster and easier for those who need to get tested. The recent announcement that the federal government is mailing four at-home testing kits to each household is not enough. 

The government is sending antigen tests to each household. As opposed to the PCR tests that are administered at testing sites and processed at a lab. Antigen tests are reliable yet could still be inaccurate depending on the person’s viral load. 

That means a drawback of those test kits is the reliability, with these tests sometimes providing false positives or false negatives when used incorrectly or at the wrong time. COVID testing sites on the other hand, can verify the results because they use polymerase chain reaction tests. 

I am fortunate enough to have a brother that works at a COVID testing site. At his testing site, he tells me people have to wait 24 to 48 hours to get their results to find out if they’re positive or negative. 

Compared to the testing kits that the government is sending directly to households, which take around 15 minutes to deliver a result, this is a huge difference.

While Biden’s plan to provide rapid at-home test kits is admirable, the dangers will remain if people are making decisions based on false results. 

The plan shouldn’t be to keep going in debt by continuing to spend several more billion of dollars just to get convenient tests out. 

The plan instead should be to maintain and expand testing sites where people set appointments and have the government  pay for those since many employers and schools now mandate weekly testing if people choose not to get vaccinated. This way, it’ll guarantee accuracy and safety.

Despite it’s short-term benefits, the current Biden plan to mail out testing kits in one dump does not erase the uncertainty that Americans will continue to face.  

That is why we need to make sure that it is the testing sites that receive the investment, so that we can all be safe and sure.