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New antigen coronavirus test offers results in 15 minutes

At a time when coronavirus test results are taking anywhere from 4 to 14 days, the FDA gave Emergency Use Authorization to two companies offering antigen tests.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new coronavirus test called "antigen testing" gives users their results back in just 15 minutes, a return far faster than the time it takes for normal results to return.

But the quickness in test results comes with questions, namely its accuracy.

"This test is certainly a step in the right direction, because it's giving us the fast results, assuming that it's accurate, which we don't quite know about it's accuracy," said Dr. Payal Kohli, a medical expert from Denver. "It really is going to kind of change the landscape, because then you'll be able to get your result right away and isolate right away."

The FDA has given two different Emergency Use Authorizations for this new type of test, one to a company called Quidel and another to a company called Beckton, Dickinson and Company.

It's called an antigen test, which is another nasal swab that works the same way as a strep throat or flu test at a doctor's office. The antigen coronavirus test uses a highly portable device, about the size of a cell phone, and the results pop up on the screen within 15 minutes.

"This is a groundbreaker, it really opens up a whole new world for people, you feel more comfortable," Suzan Webb said.

Webb lives in El Dorado Hills but commutes to the Bay Area every other week for work.

When she's working there, she stays with her 81-year-old mother-in-law. She wants to get tested before staying with her mother-in-law or coming into contact with other coworkers.

"I think that would be fabulous and it would probably really alleviate the fears that so many of us have that are going to work and caring for elderly relatives," she said.

The test is so new that it isn't covered by insurance yet, so it comes at a price around $125. But, for Webb, it's a price she is happy to pay for peace of mind.

"For myself, I would pay it," she said.

There aren't any walk-in urgent care clinics in the Sacramento area that have the test available yet, but the owner of Urgent Care Now in the Arden-Arcade and Fair Oaks areas says they're in the queue to get it from Quidel in the near future.

Still, Dr. Kohli says until the test is confirmed to be performing accurately, people should approach using it with caution.

"I'm cautiously optimistic, because they haven't really published the performance of the test yet," Dr. Kohli said. "I don't want to hang my hat on it, because those rapid tests in the beginning really burned us. They gave us the wrong answer more than they gave us the right answer."


Follow the conversation on Facebook with Lena Howland.



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