Coronavirus Consequences — School’s Out But Testing’s In

School is, or shortly will be, out for the summer. Who cares? It’s really been out for some time with pupils stuck at home trying to adapt to distance learning. Even if school is out, testing is very much in. Coronavirus testing that is. Let’s study for this testing, shall we?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), there are two kinds of tests for COVID-19. These aren’t true/false or essay tests. These tests involve needles and long swabs, not pencils. Ouch! A viral test tells if you have a current coronavirus infection. An antibody test indicates if you have had a previous infection.

Failing the viral test is cause for celebration. A negative result establishes that you weren’t infected at the time your sample was collected. But don’t party too hard. This result doesn’t mean you won’t get sick later. 

Since the coronavirus is a respiratory illness, viral tests check samples from your respiratory system to tell if you are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. A swab of the inside of your nose may be done. This swab is not a small Q-tip like you may have in your bathroom. Oh, no. The nasopharyngeal swab used is a special SIX-INCH (that’s half a foot!) cotton swab. This torture device–er, swab–is placed up both sides of your nose and moved around for about 15 seconds. WebMD advises that this procedure won’t hurt, but it “might be uncomfortable.” Ya think?

Even when test results are obtained, your status could still be unclear, Test results can be wrong; while a positive is a positive, per CDC, there can be false negatives. If you test positive, the good news is that there is certainty as to your medical status. The bad news is that we are positive you have the dread COVID-19. If you test negative, you may or may not have COVID-19. Early on in the disease there may not be a lot of virus present. The good news is you don’t have much virus in your body–yet anyway. 

The antibody test is used to detect the presence of antibodies and is a serological test. Blood must be drawn meaning a needle is involved. Ouch!

Why look for antibodies? They are the proteins your body uses to help fight off infections. Their presence indicates a past infection. Unfortunately, it is not clear if antibodies provide immunity against getting infected again. Based on a recent news story, I’m guessing the answer is no. A handful of sailors on the coronavirus-ravaged USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the virus for the second time. Uh oh!

Concerns with the reliability of antibody test results exist as well. Reportedly 40% of rapid antigen tests miss positive patients. That’s 4 out of 10 people getting an inaccurate test result. Oops! While .600 is a great batting average, a 60% medical test accuracy rate is a poor score.

The viral and antibody tests aim for different information. Viral tests indicate what is currently going on in your body. Do you have the infection? Antigen tests indicate what has happened in the past in your body. Have you previously had the infection? It can take 1-3 weeks after an infection for your body to make antibodies, so the antibody test may not be able to show if you have a current infection. 

Tests can be further broken down as to how results are obtained. Point of care tests allow results to be obtained at the testing site in less than an hour. Other tests must be sent to a lab to be analyzed, a process that could take 1-2 days once received by the lab. Regardless of how long it takes to get results, the waiting will be stressful.

Testing does not have to be done at a medical facility. You can be tested from the convenience of your car with drive through testing. I don’t know about you, but if I’m getting “take out” from a drive through, I want to be receiving a burger and fries, not supplying my mucus or saliva.

If being in your car is not convenient enough, another testing site option exists. DIY testing is available from the “comfort” of your home. Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) has been given to home collection kits produced by LabCorp. FDA has approved two types of viral test kits which allow you to collect a nasal swab or a saliva sample at home. Saliva is a common medium for virus transmission–no spit!

If you feel compelled to test yourself at home, make sure you do your homework before taking the test. Find out if the test you are using is an authorized one. All tests which have been given Emergency Use Authorization are listed on the FDA’s website. 

Whether in school or out, all of us face tests. The pandemic has provided ample opportunities for testing. Patience has been tested with drawn out lock downs and shortages of TP and cleaning products, financial situations have been tested by economic adversity, and bodies have been tested for the coronavirus or antibodies produced in reaction to it. While you can’t study for a viral or antigen test, you can learn about them. Being informed is a TESTament to one’s desire to be prepared for whatever life throws at you. Let’s just hope that it isn’t the coronavirus.

Just WONDER-ing:

Have you taken either a viral test or antigen test during the pandemic? Which would bother you more–have a needle stuck in your arm or having a 6-inch swab stuck up your nose? Is a 60% test accuracy rate acceptable? Would you be more likely to rely on a home test or one conducted by a medical professional?




4 thoughts on “Coronavirus Consequences — School’s Out But Testing’s In

  1. Great info! You really should consider a side gig as a newspaper columnist. Helpful info laced with snarky humor. Who wouldn’t want to read that?


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