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COVID-19 self-testing kits are flying off pharmacy shelves, skewing case numbers

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 8:12 AM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Gone are the days of standing in line at local testing sites as rapid COVID-19 at-home tests are available at pharmacies and grocery stores across the country. They’ve gotten so popular in the Red River Valley pharmacies are having a hard time keep them in stock.

The widespread availability of at-home COVID-19 rapid tests has alleviated strain for hospital run labs. Fewer people seeking tests at state run testing clinics means those who do go to the clinic can get their test results sooner.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Avish Nagpal says timing is crucial when it comes to a COVID-19 diagnosis. The sooner a patient can get treatments like monoclonal antibodies, the better they chance they have of not being hospitalized.

”You’re not running around looking for a test and exposing other people,” explained Dr. Nagpal, “It has dual benefits. Of course we have to do it the right way. If you do have a positive test you need to report it and discuss it with your doctor.”

Putting COVID-19 tests on pharmacy shelves and into the hands of public also means fewer cases are being reported to the state. Dr. Nagpal said everyone who tests positive using an at-home kit needs to ley their doctor know.

Minnesota health officials said over the counter rapid tests cannot be reported to the state; however they said they don’t need those results to maintain ‘accurate’ and ‘reliable’ surveillance of the pandemic. Since those tests results can’t be reported, COVID-19 case numbers are likely even higher.

An employee at the Walgreens on 13th avenue in Fargo said their store hasn’t been able to get the at-home tests in stock for over a week. LifeScript Pharmacy in south Fargo only allows customers to buy 4 at a time and each test cost $17.50. You can get the same rapid test at state run clinics for free, just be sure to register online before hand.

The convenience of at-home tests does come at a cost, they’re slightly less accurate than PCR tests. Dr. Nagpal said at-home tests work better for people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

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