COVID-19 rapid self-test available in stores, experts weigh in

For $24, you can now test yourself for the coronavirus at home and get results in 15 minutes. No prescription is required.

Last week, Abbott Laboratories sent its first shipment of the BinaxNow COVID-19 self-test to Walgreens, CVS and Walmart stores.

Contact 6 had to visit several Milwaukee area stores before spotting it on the shelves.

The BinaxNow rapid antigen test is already in use at the UW-Milwaukee community test site and on campuses in Waukesha and Washington Counties.

"It's the same test that's been in use since August," said Dr. Mary Rodgers, a principal scientist at Abbott. "Over 200 million tests [have been] used in schools and workplaces to prevent outbreaks, and it's that same technology that's now available in people's homes."

So, what do a local pharmacist, doctor and lab think of the at-home test? Across the board, they view the BinaxNOW self-test as a welcome addition to the coronavirus-fighting tool kit.

"I think it's an attractive option," said Dr. Nasia Safdar, UW Health medical director of infection control. "We know there are a lot of barriers to testing for some people."

Hashim Zaibak, owner of Hayat Pharmacies, agreed to demonstrate the BinaxNow test for Contact 6. The test requires swabbing the insides of both nostrils then inserting the cotton swab into a cardboard cartridge.

"It’s easy," said Zaibak.

Safdar says people can trust a positive COVID-19 result from the BinaxNow self-test. However, she says a negative result should be followed-up with a second test.

"It's important to recognize that no test is 100 percent," said Safdar. "A single negative test just means that it's negative that day. It could be positive in the subsequent days."

That’s why Abbott Laboratories includes two test cartridges in each BinaxNow self-test package.

"You're supposed to do a second test within 3 days," said Rodgers. "At least 36 hours apart, to give you extra confidence in that negative result."

After using the at-home test, follow up with a doctor if:

  • You test positive
  • You’re symptomatic, test negative and can’t wait three days to do the BinaxNOW second test.
  • You were exposed to a person with COVID-19, test negative and can’t wait three days to do the BinaxNow second test.

JoAnn George, project manager of field operators for Accelerated Clinical Labs, also demonstrated the test for Contact 6.

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"I do think anyone could do it," said George.

The BinaxNOW test has been approved by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization.

Rodgers says it’s 95% accurate for people who are contagious or were infected within the last seven days.

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