Many who take at-home COVID-19 tests misunderstand FDA instructions

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Saturday, April 9, 2022 - 7:59am
Updated: Saturday, April 9, 2022 - 10:20am

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Covid test
A COVID-19 test.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved more than 10 at-home coronavirus tests to help people protect themselves and others.

But research suggests confusing instructions by the agency might undermine those safeguards

SARS-CoV-2 rapid self-tests are less reliable than PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and can give false negatives, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people with symptoms or recent exposure quarantine and seek further testing.

But a study of 360 adults published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that FDA instructions might muddy that guideline.

Among users with negative test results but a high infection probability, one-third of those who followed FDA instructions thought they did not need to quarantine.

That's worse than the one-quarter who received no instructions at all.

Within a third group, which received guidelines based on decision science principles, only 14% failed to understand the need for isolation.

Coronavirus Science