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UCSF Study Shows New Rapid COVID Test Could Help Lower Infection Rates

By Flickr user This Is Engineering / used under CC from thisisjude.uk / resized and cropped


A new study from UCSF shows that new rapid COVID tests could be key for lowering infection rates.

If you’ve ever taken a COVID-19 test, chances are you were swabbed with something called a PCR test. It’s considered the gold-standard when it comes to testing. 


But a PCR test takes days to return results.


This prompted the development of a new so-called rapid test. It can provide results in under 30 minutes, but it can’t detect the coronavirus if the levels are too low. So, is it effective?


To find out, researchers from UCSF and Chan Zuckerberg Biohub recently evaluated the tests. They set up a free pop-up testing site in San Francisco’s Mission District. Everyone who visited provided two nasal swab samples. One was tested for COVID using PCR, the other was run through the rapid test.


The results showed that for people with high amounts of the virus, the rapid tests were almost as effective as the PCR test. Researchers say the rapid test could help quickly identify people who are the most infectious so they can quarantine to keep from spreading the virus.


The results of the study will help the California Department of Public Health plan for how they can roll out rapid-testing efforts of their own.

Carla Esteves is a 2020-2021 Audio Academy Fellow with KALW. Her reporting interests include environmental justice, housing insecurity, climate change, business and economy.