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Want to get a rapid COVID-19 test? Be prepared to wait

Antigen tests provide fast results that are up to 96% accurate, if you get tested within 6 days of exposure or show symptoms within that time frame.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With hundreds of new cases popping up in Shelby County a day, I went and got a rapid COVID-19 test on Monday after learning someone who I was in close contact with tested positive for the virus.

The rapid COVID test, or antigen test, provides same-day results.

However, it is different from the molecular PCR or polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 test we’ve seen used since the beginning of the pandemic.

Dr. Dale Criner with the Memphis Medical Society said, “The antigen test looks for specific proteins from the virus. The PCR test looks for specific genetic material for the virus.”

Less invasive, the rapid COVID-19 test doesn’t go as deep into the nose as the PCR test, but it may not be as accurate.

Dr. Criner said, “For the PCR test, we typically get a result back within 1 to 3 days. For the antigen test, once the sample is collected, you can actually get a result back as quickly as 15 minutes.”

It took some digging to find a place offering rapid COVID tests in the Mid-South. I found RedMed, which has locations all across the region.

I filled out the new patient paperwork the night before to save a step.

When I arrived an hour before the clinic in Olive Branch, Mississippi opened, I discovered I was number 36 in the queue. 

I talked to some people in line who did not want to be on camera. The overwhelming reason why they were getting a test was Thanksgiving.

After waiting close to eight hours before a doctor performed my rapid test, I asked my nurse if it was worth waiting for something that may not be accurate.

Dr. Criner said, “The most accurate results typically come within the first five or six days of symptoms.”

In this case, I was right within that margin. My nurse backed up what Dr. Criner said, explaining it would be 96% accurate.

Thankfully, my results came back negative. 

As of now I am in the clear, but I can't speak for the hundreds of others getting tests.

Health experts said there is a potential for a false negative result if someone gets tested outside of the five-to-six-day window.

The nurse said if you don’t mind waiting a few days, get the PCR test if you want most accurate results.

She also said enjoy Thanksgiving with your immediate household.

COVID Testing Update Get tested if you are feeling sick or know you have been exposed. Special Thanksgiving Schedule for testing locations is available below. Please check each location to ensure availability this week. Current Community Testing Locations If you are symptomatic or have been in close contact with a COVID patient, Memphians should call [...]

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