Health / Fitness

A look at COVID self-tests

Several products are now available in stores and online. You can go through all the steps by watching the video below.

Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms? 

There’s no need anymore to wait in line at a hospital or clinic to get tested—nor is there a need to wait 24 hours to receive test results. 

Assuming they are in supply, you can now walk into Hollister’s Walgreens, Rite Aid or Safeway to purchase a COVID-19 Antigen Self Test. A Lucky’s pharmacy employee said it does not carry self tests. As of Sept. 20, the pharmacies were out of stock and said they are experiencing stock delays for the self tests. A Walgreens employee said they expect to have tests in stock Sept. 21. 

The Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Test is currently the sole brand at these local stores, though Walgreens also carries the Quidel QuickVue Rapid Test. These tests can be found in the medical aisles or store pharmacies.

But just how accurate are these at-home COVID-19 rapid tests? How do they differ among lab tests? And do companies accept these tests as proof of being COVID negative?

It’s worth noting that the rapid antigen tests work differently than the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests medical laboratories have been performing. According to Abbott Diagnostics, antigen tests detect proteins from the virus, while PCR tests are molecular and can detect genetic material from the virus. 

“Antigen tests are very specific for the virus, but are not as sensitive as molecular tests,” the company said in its Fact Sheet in its BinaxNOW product. “This means that a positive result is highly accurate, but a negative result does not rule out infection.”

San Benito County’s Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said there are currently six at-home tests available nationwide: BinaxNOW Rapid Test, QuickVue Rapid Test, Cue Health’s molecular-based test, Ellume rapid test, Lucira Check It molecular test, and CareStart

The price of these tests varies. For instance, while antigen tests BinaxNOW and QuickVue are $24, the Lucira Check It molecular test is $55. Also, BinaxNOW and QuickVue are available at drugstores, while Lucira Check It is available for online purchase only.

Hollister resident Colleen Chapman shared her experience using the BinaxNOW test. 

“It wasn’t very complicated,” Chapman said. Liquid solution, a swab stick and a card with a testing strip, come inside the package, Chapman said. Six drops of the liquid solution needed to be placed inside a hole in the card. Then after swabbing, making five circular motions within each nostril, the swab stick was placed in the solution through another hole in the card. After 15 minutes (but no longer than 30 minutes), results can be found on the card. Two pink stripes indicate a positive result; one pink stripe indicates a negative one. 

Ghilarducci said that though the accuracy of at-home tests varies, all are accurate when symptoms of COVID-19 are present. 

If you have symptoms, you probably have a higher viral load, and therefore there is more of a signal for the test to pick up,” he said. “Accuracy drops off when you have no symptoms, for the same reason. Antigen tests have the big advantage of giving you immediate results so you can act accordingly, but the trade-off is less accuracy than a PCR or NAAT [Nucleic Acid Amplification Test] laboratory test. Generally this shortcoming can be overcome with more frequent testing.”

Ghilarducci said those who are symptomatic and receive a positive test result from an at-home test should isolate and seek care. They should also consider a lab confirmation. For symptomatic individuals who receive negative test results, confirmation with a laboratory test is still advised. 

For asymptomatic individuals with no known exposure to COVID-19, no further testing is necessary if they receive a negative test result. If someone is asymptomatic, but has been exposed to (or in close contact with) someone with the virus, they should “consider quarantine and retest in three to five days,” Ghilarducci said.

As for companies needing proof of negative COVID-19 test results from their employees, the Centers for Disease Control said that “Antigen tests are an effective tool to help employers prevent the spread COVID-19 in the workplace. [They] can detect current infection before an employee enters the workplace or returns to work.”

Companies using at-home tests for employees are advised to follow the same protocols that Ghilarducci recommended after results of the tests are found.

With the delta variant in mind, Ghilarducci had one final note about at-home testing.

 “With delta, the virus grows much faster, and drops off faster,” he said. “Therefore, the test should be conducted between three and five days after the exposure. Outside this window the accuracy drops way off.”




Hollister Pharmacies           Phone                                Address

Walgreens                                  (831) 638-1024                    600 Tres Pinos Rd. Hollister, CA

Rite Aid                                       (831) 636-1692                   1701 Airline Hwy (Hwy 25) Hollister, CA

Safeway                                       (831) 638-3247                   591 Tres Pinos Rd. Hollister, CA




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Jenny Mendolla Arbizu

Jenny is a Hollister native who resides in her hometown with her husband and son. She is a graduate of San Benito High School, and received her BA in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and MA in Education from San Jose State University. Jenny is a former elementary school teacher and has written for the Hollister Freelance, San Benito and South Valley magazines. She enjoys bringing informative and educational news to San Benito County, as well as spotlighting local community members and businesses. On any given day, she can be found performing with SBSC, singing with the Hollister VFW, or working out at Cold Storage CrossFit.