(Salt Lake City) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) today announced it will temporarily pause the use of on-site rapid antigen tests at all state-operated testing sites beginning Monday, February 7. State-operated sites include those run by UDOH mobile test teams, TestUtah, and TourHealth. Beginning Monday, these sites will also offer at-home tests to anyone who receives a PCR test but may also want to receive results faster.
The change comes after data analyzed by UDOH epidemiologists raised questions about the performance of the GenBody rapid antigen tests used at our sites. The UDOH analyzed test results from nearly 18,000 Utah residents who received both GenBody rapid antigen and PCR tests on the same day. Among people who tested positive by PCR, more than half of them tested negative by GenBody rapid antigen test; this was true even for people who reported COVID-like symptoms.
While rapid antigen tests are known to be less likely to identify a positive individual, the difference identified in this analysis was higher than expected.
The analysis showed positive rapid tests were extremely reliable, indicating if someone tests positive on a rapid test they do not need to question the result.
“Within the past few weeks, UDOH mobile test teams began using the GenBody rapid antigen test. These teams reported a trend of higher-than-expected negative results from this specific rapid antigen test. This prompted our analysis across a broader timeline and the results motivated our decision to temporarily pause the use of this test” said Dr. Leisha Nolen, UDOH state epidemiologist. “This step is necessary to ensure people receive accurate test results.”
A similar analysis looking at people who received PCR tests and BinaxNow rapid antigen tests at Utah testing sites showed better results, with less than one-third getting a negative rapid antigen result when PCR test results were positive. However, there is a nationwide shortage of BinaxNow tests, and the state’s access to these tests is limited. When the state’s supply chain stabilizes, rapid antigen tests may be reintroduced at state-operated testing sites.
“Throughout the response, we have worked to provide Utahns with access to appropriate testing resources. We use tests that have been reviewed and authorized by the appropriate federal agencies. In this case, recent data raised questions about how one of these tests is functioning in our current testing system. While we seek additional information to address these questions, we are shifting our testing efforts accordingly. It’s the right thing to do right now.” said Nate Checketts, UDOH executive director. “We are committed to being transparent in this continually changing environment.”
People who received a negative rapid antigen test result at a state-sponsored testing location between February 2-6 should consider returning to one of these sites and being re-tested with a PCR test. They can also request an at-home test kit at one of these sites.
Over the last month access to at-home rapid antigen tests has expanded, providing Utahns with additional options for fast test results. Many pharmacies and on-line retailers report ample supplies, and the federal government recently required insurance companies to cover the costs of these tests. The federal government also recently launched a program to deliver free at-home tests to every household in America. Tests can be ordered online at https://www.covidtests.gov/.
A list of testing locations, including two recently-opened high-capacity sites at the University of Utah and Utah Valley University, can be found at https://coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-covid-19-testing-locations/.
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