Three Negatives for a Net Positive: FDA Adjusts Guidance for At-Home COVID Testing

Although a first negative result is often enough to get an individual recovering from COVID jumping for joy and making plans for the following day, the FDA has issued revised guidance suggesting that they administer repeat or serial self-testing after the negative test results from any COVID antigen test. People may need as many as three of these tests to confirm that their infection is not simply asymptomatic while still existing in their system.

Following one negative test result, individuals are encouraged to retest within 48 hours in the absence of COVID symptoms. The same timeframe would then be suitable for a third test, in which a negative outcome would act as validation of freedom from COVID infection. This counts out to a 96-hour window of time wherein negative results are merely touch-and-go.

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The adjusted guidance is based on the unsteady performance of many at-home testing kits, which only promise 80% accuracy in SARS-CoV-2 detection. False positives are even less likely to occur than false negatives, but a positive in any of those three recommended tests puts the person back into CDC-guideline adherence. With this warning, the FDA hopes to prevent the spread of COVID from unwitting individuals with a virus now known for instances of asymptomatic presentation.