So You Want to Take an “At Home” Covid-19 Test – Read On!
Over the past weekend, I took advantage of Palm Beach County’s offer of two free home Covid19 testing kits and spent an hour in a line of cars in the new County Park on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, way, way, way out west, beyond US 441, to get mine. (An email from County Commissioner Mack Bernard clued me into their availability … even though we don’t live in his district. Good man!) I was handed two Abbott “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test” kits there, and using one, I found that I tested negatively. Within the next 48 hours, I used the second kit for a second test, which also was negative. More about that later on though! It's important.
These are not quite the same as the ”BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test” tests kits that sell in drug stores, when they have them, in a box containing two tests for about $20. There are some significant differences. A relative who purchased such a kit told me it contained full detailed instructions as to how to use its contents to test oneself, which she did.
The ‘free’ kit I received, it turned out, contained no instructions whatsoever, but screamed at me from its box, in red, not to open it until instructed to do so. On the front of the box, It instructed me to first download a free app, Navica, in order to create an account prior to “my appointment.” I did this and was transferred to another site, eMed.com, where a ‘trained proctor’ took over and with the aid of an online audio and video connection, told me to finally open the box and then walked me through taking the test, after which the results were printed out for me on both eMed.com and the Navica app, the latter of which afforded me the opportunity to forward them to other organizations, such as employers or cruise lines. (If you start off on eMed.com where the test card provided in the box does the actual testing, they ask you to go back and first download the Navica app, which is managed by Abbott, who manufactures the Binex tests.)
The ‘trained proctor,’ who sounded to me like he was in Manila was extremely helpful and if I had lacked the computer expertise to set up the necessary audio and video linkage, was apparently willing and able to guide me through the procedure via a ‘chat’ box. (The ‘proctor’ on the second test I took automatically duplicated what she was saying in the ‘chat’ box.) For example, both proctors asked me to display before my camera the QR block on the test’s box, and later on the test card itself, as well as my ID (drivers license). If I hadn’t been able to do that, there was a lot number on the box, and my drivers license number, which I could have transmitted via the ‘chat’ screen I suppose.
The relative who took exactly the same test using her store-purchased kit did not have to get involved with either Navica or eMed.com, full instructions having come enclosed with her kit. In fact, she did not even have to own a computer. Both tests use the same linear graphics to indicate a positive or negative result which appear right on the test card, for any who take the test to see. The downside of the ”BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test,” the one sold in drug stores, is that those linear graphics reporting a positive or negative result are the extent of what gets reported to her. (I am not sure, but it seems possible that the Navica app might be accessible subsequently, for those who do not start the testing process on it.)
|BinexNOW test card provided in either of these kits|
On the other hand, with the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test,” the free one provided by the County, I was immediately able to print documents from both Navica and eMed, stating the test’s results, the latter even being signed by a physician. The drug-store version not requiring use of a computer or mobile phone lacks the ‘virtual visit’ with a ‘trained proctor’ described above which enables someone (eMed.com) to ‘certify’ the digital test result for forwarding to other parties, such as an employer or cruise line, which is where the Navica app is used.
Therefore, the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test,” bought in drug-stores, is useful only for one’s personal use and knowledge as to whether they might be infected, its result being displayed right on the test card but not otherwise documentable as is the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card” Home Test’s result, which also, of course, is visible on its test card. One's personal behavior should be governed by the test result, however it may be obtained.
With tens of thousands of these free kits requiring signing on via one’s computer or mobile phone being distributed, it was understandable that the first few times I tried to get tested, I couldn’t get into the system’s network. I kept getting a cryptic message saying, “Network connection failed.” I correctly assumed it was overloaded with testing requests. However, after a few hours, I tried again and was then able to get on to their network and be tested. With many tens of thousands of these free “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test” kits each requiring about twenty minutes of computer contact with a ‘trained proctor’ being distributed, the amount of human labor needed to administer them seems enormous.
Another friend of mine went to her personal physician who administered the more sophisticated PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test, a molecular test that checks the upper respiratory specimen for genetic material (RNA) including the virus that causes Covid19. He was able to report the results to her in about three days, after getting them back from a lab. I saw my results on the test card in precisely fifteen minutes, as did the relative who had bought the same kit in a drug store, which came with an instruction sheet and did not even involve using a computer.
But there’s a tradeoff involved. These almost instant BinexNOW results were based on finding or not finding antigens in the sample, a less accurate testing method than the PCR lab test which checks RNA. In fact, it is recommended that a negative test result on an antigen test (which the ‘BinaxNOW’ tests are) should be followed by a second test between 24 and 48 hours later, to more or less confirm its findings. Apparently, that is why the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test” is sold in drug stores in packages containing two tests and the County’s free test distribution consists of two individual one-test boxes of the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card” Home test. Unfortunately, when I received my first test’s negative result, there was no specific instruction to take the second test to confirm it. You have to search around to find that recommendation, but it is there! Getting the result twice reinforces its validity to some extent.
In the future, I will periodically take whatever "at home antigen Covid19" test is available, aware that a positive result or any Covid19 symptoms should direct me to my personal physician who might consider more accurate PCR testing. I believe we all should act similarly.
If home testing is going to be the wave of the future in dealing with Covid19, and I believe it will be, along with vaccinations geared to emerging variants, some improvements will have to be made, as evidenced by the differing approaches mentioned above, bearing in mind that there are similar tests on the market from companies other than Abbott (maker of the Binex tests), adding to the confusion.
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