What is the difference between PCR vs. rapid COVID-19 test?

Coronavirus Local Impact

(WWLP) – As COVID cases are on the rise, you might be thinking about what type of test is best to get.

Right now there’s the PCR tests and the rapid tests like the BinaxNOW, those are actually sold at some pharmacy’s for at-home testing. The PCR tests to go a lab and give you results in 24 to 48 hours.

“It’s a molecular test. It looks for the DNA sequence of the actual virus, that’s why it’s sensitive,” said AMR Operations Manager for Western Massachusetts, Patrick Leonardo.

The PCR test is typically more accurate because it’s more sensitive, it looks for the DNA sequence of the virus. Where as the rapid test takes 15 minutes and gives you the results right there on the test. It’s very accurate if you are symptomatic and positive because it looks for antigens or COVID proteins which you have a lot of in the first one to seven days of being symptomatic.

Leonardo told 22News, “It’s very similar to a pregnancy test. There’s a standard line which is your negative line and if you get two lines present in a 15 minute time frame then it’s positive.”

The PCR test is five seconds in each nostril, the rapid is 15, but both don’t hurt. One of the biggest differences between the PCR tests and the rapid test is the size of the swab, for the PCR test, it’s a smaller one that goes into a test tube, but for the rapid test its presumed that you’re symptomatic so it’s a longer swab to give more room between you and the person you’re testing.

“Right now, with the winter weather and the cold weather out there, what we’re recommending is that people blow their nose because it can be very viscous so we need people to blow their nose out because we don’t want it to have all that mucus on that swab,” said Leonardo.

Both tests are offered at the Eastfield Mall ‘Stop the Spread’ testing site. If you’re negative on a rapid test, they do recommend you getting a PCR test because that looks more closely at the virus in your system and can tell more accurately even if you’re not symptomatic.

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