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Vt. health officials concerned rapid-antigen testing provides false security

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 2:59 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 16, 2020 at 3:00 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont health officials continue to cast doubt on the value of rapid antigen testing, including the kind of tests now being offered at the Burlington airport.

This week Garnet Health began offering testing services for a fee aimed at travelers arriving in Vermont. The company says the tests are a useful tool in keeping COVID cases under control.

But health officials Friday said the tests are not effective in diagnosing COVID in people who have no symptoms. State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso says she’s concerned that negative test results could give people a false sense of security. “It’s valid if it gives you a positive result that you weren’t aware of, because then you know you’re infectious and need to isolate. But if it’s negative, it’s honestly not that helpful,” she said.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine has maintained the best use for antigen testing is as a screening tool, used regularly on the same population -- like a nursing home. He has not recommended the kinds of antigen tests for one-off testing similar to those offered by Garnet.

Health officials also remind travelers that the antigen testing does not replace the state travel protocols which require people arriving by plane or driving from high virus areas to quarantine for 14 days or quarantine for seven days followed by a negative result from a PCR test.

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