Yale Medicine doctor weighs in on best time to use at-home COVID test kits as CT residents line up to get them


NEWINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — There have been long lines across the state for days now while residents wait to receive at-home test kits. But when is the best time to use them to get the best results?

In Newington, test kits ran out quickly on Tuesday. The distribution site was supposed to open around 4 p.m. but the line was so long at 3:30 that they got the cars rolling because traffic was so backed up, getting onto Route 9 and messing up traffic in the town.

“I want them in case something happens,” said one driver in line. “Instead of waiting in line somewhere else to get tested.”

Some people are picking up tests as a precuation while others are feeling sick with symptoms. But is it COVID, the flu or the common cold?

“If it’s positive, it is definitely COVID,” said Dr. Sharon Stoll with Yale Medicine.

What if it is negative and you still have COVID symptoms?

“85% of cases it will pick up, 15% of the cases it will miss, so that is why physicians and healthcare workers are recommending getting it repeated if you have a negative test,” Stoll said.

If you have a couple of negative tests and still have COVID symptoms, there are other tests doctors can do to put your mind at ease.

“They will have rapid flu tests, strep throat tests, so keep in mind if you are sick it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be COVID,” Stoll said.

In Newington, residents received one test kit per car. Stoll said the best time to use the kit would not be right after you are exposed, but instead three to five days later because with the rapid antigen tests, they are waiting for viral particles to replicate.

Doctors say the more virus there is, the more accurate the test and while you are waiting those three to five days, it is best to quarantine and isolate.

CORRECTION: News 8 incorrectly reported that the CDC recently recalled some of their tests because they could not distinguish between flu and COVID. The CDC said it retired the CDC 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel because “the FDA has authorized hundreds of other SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests, many of which are now higher throughput or can test for more than one illness at a time.” The CDC said that diagnostic panel does not confuse influenza with SARS-CoV-2.

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