Can getting a rapid coronavirus test clear you for travel?

Investigations

Tampa veteran shares warning about COVID-19 rapid testing and travel

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Coronavirus rapid antigen tests are becoming more available across the state, but could there be a downside to all that convenience?

Tampa veteran Jeff Gareau shared a warning with 8 On Your Side about rapid testing and traveling.

He had to book an emergency flight from Florida to New England.

“Unfortunately, my sister-in-law passed away,” Gareau explained.

In order to attend the funeral and bypass Connecticut’s self-quarantine rule, the veteran needed a negative coronavirus test, stat.

“I went over to the VA Hospital. They did a COVID rapid test on a Sunday morning, he said. “I thought that the testing would be acceptable.”

As he would soon find out, the rapid test was not acceptable. Connecticut rejects rapid tests for the self-quarantine exemption. The state only accepts polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests in this situation.

Here’s a quick COVID-19 testing lesson: You have two options for diagnosing an active infection.

First, you can take a molecular or PCR test. The sample is taken from your nose, throat or saliva. The turnaround time depends on the lab but it usually takes a few days.

The second option is an antigen test, which can also diagnose an active infection. Typically, the sample comes from your nose or throat. You can expect results within a few hours.

An antibody test is another type of COVID-19 test. However, it is not for diagnosing an active infection. Antibody tests only show if you had COVID-19 in the past. The sample is taken from blood. Results can take a few days.

“Of the tens of thousands of tests we’ve done at Moffitt, the PCR nasopharynx has been the gold standard,” Moffit’s Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. John Greene said. “Most states, as well as hospitals, as well as medical groups will only accept a PCR nasopharynx swab.”

It all comes down to accuracy. The problem with the rapid test is false negatives.

Bottom line: Do your research before you get a test to see what the state, school or organization accepts.

If you have a tip, email investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com

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