State health department pauses rapid COVID testing
The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) has temporarily stopped using rapid antigen tests at state-operated testing sites due to unreliability.
A recent analysis showed that more than half of GenBody brand tests had returned false results. For now, the state testing sites will only perform PCR tests, which take longer to deliver results but are more reliable. State sites will continue to send people home with rapid tests to use on their own if they choose to.
Summit County Health Director Phil Bondurant says the suspension of rapid tests doesn’t affect Summit County, because it doesn’t have any state testing sites. Wasatch County Health Department Epidemiologist Chris Smoot says only the weekly site at the Wasatch County Event Center in Heber City will pause rapid testing.
Neither local county health department uses the GenBody tests. Smoot says his department administers more reliable tests from BinaxNow. He says the state currently has a low supply of that brand, but he expects the UDOH to use them when the state gets more. The BinaxNow shortage is nationwide, reportedly due to supply-chain issues.
UDOH analyzed GenBody rapid test results from nearly 18,000 Utah residents who received both GenBody rapid antigen and PCR tests on the same day. Among people who tested positive by PCR, more than half of them tested negative by GenBody rapid test; this was true even for people with COVID-like symptoms.
The analysis showed positive rapid tests were extremely reliable, so if someone tests positive on a rapid test they don’t need to question the result.
A similar analysis looking at people who received PCR tests and BinaxNow rapid tests at Utah testing sites showed better results, with less than one-third getting a negative rapid antigen result when PCR test results were positive.
People who received a negative rapid test result at a state-sponsored testing location between February 2 through 6 should consider being re-tested with a PCR test. They can also request at-home test kits at these sites.
For more information on testing for coronavirus in Utah, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.