COVID PCR Testing Can be Fast—and It’s More Accurate than Rapid Antigen Tests

In February 2022, the state of Utah called an abrupt halt to the use of a rapid antigen test for COVID-19 at state-run testing sites. The test Utah was using turned out to have lower-than-expected sensitivity, meaning it was returning too many false-negative results.1

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) compared results from nearly 18,000 people who received the rapid antigen test and a PCR test on the same day. The analysis found that more than half of those who tested positive by PCR simultaneously tested negative by the rapid antigen test. UDOH noted that “this was true even for people who reported COVID-like symptoms.”1

“While rapid antigen tests are known to be less likely to identify a positive individual, the difference identified in this analysis was higher than expected,” UDOH explained in a statement.1