The FDA is Expanding Home Testing Guidelines for COVID Exposures

You might want to stock up on home COVID-19 tests now.

The FDA today released new guidance on home COVID testing. It still recommends repeat testing after a negative result, but it also urges people with no symptoms but believe they have been exposed to take three tests instead of two.

According to the new guidance:

  • If a first or repeat test is positive, follow the CDC guidelines on isolation and seek medical attention.
  • If the first test is negative but you have symptoms, test again 48 hours later. After the second test, you may wish to repeat the test 48 hours later and consider obtaining a molecular test (PCR) in a laboratory and seeking medical attention.
  • In the event that the first test result is negative, you don’t have symptoms but you think you’ve been exposed, do a second test two days later, and do another one 48 hours after that, for a total of at least three tests. After three negative tests, the FDA recommends you to test again at home, get a PCR test, or consult a physician if you are concerned.

According to current CDC guidelines, you should test yourself at home as soon as you notice symptoms. If COVID-19 has been exposed to you, you should test at least 5 days after exposure – and if that test is negative, you should test again within 1-2 days.

The new FDA guidance is based on research from researchers at UMass Medical School who found that the new timeline is more likely to detect an infection.

These are the conclusions after the examination of 5,609 people, enrolled in the national Test Us At Home study, from October 2021 to January. Participants used one of three retail test kits and collected a molecular PCR sample. For the following 15 days, they conducted periodic tests every 48 hours.

As the result of our PCR-based sampling, 154 people tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Over 90% of infections were detected in symptomatic people who began testing within a week of beginning testing twice at home.

After three serial tests with at-home tests carried out at 48-hour intervals, more than 75% of infections were detected, up from about 60% after two tests.

This study is a preprint and is not yet peer-reviewed.

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