Doctor says COVID-19 rapid tests are not reliable as UCSF Fresno testing site runs out of supply

KSEE24 News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – As COVID-19 cases are increasing in Fresno County, so is the demand for testing.

“Probably last month I’d say back of the hand, we probably were testing somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 100 a day, and now we’re testing about 550 a day,” said Dr. Kenny Banh, director of the UCSF Fresno Covid Equity Project.

At the UCSF Fresno site, their last batch of rapid tests will expire this Saturday, and they don’t have any more on the way.

However, Dr. Banh says the rapid tests aren’t very reliable anyway.

“The big issue is that their sensitivity is very, very poor actually,” said Dr. Banh. “Some studies show the sensitivity as low as 30-something percent for asymptomatic patients, like that means if you don’t have a fever, don’t have any symptoms, and you’re just screening or had an exposure.”

Dr. Banh said with symptoms, studies show the rapid tests are about 64 to 67 percent effective, so still, at least a third of positive cases are likely going undetected when using rapid tests, which is what many schools are relying on after exposure in classrooms.

“I understand the reasoning and just the ease of use of it, but if you’re really missing a third to a half of cases, is that acceptable? And what’s going to happen? It’s going to lead to more spread as you see the case counts that are happening throughout the school districts currently,” said Dr. Banh.

Dr. Banh said they’re currently averaging about two days for PCR test results.

He said this shortage of rapid tests won’t actually affect case counts because Fresno County only records the results of PCR tests.

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