Miami-Dade has a new rule for people who want a rapid COVID antigen test

·3 min read

Anyone who is planning to get an antigen rapid test at a Miami-Dade County-run testing site will now also be required to get a PCR test, which is more accurate in detecting early COVID infections but takes slightly longer to process results.

The change, which kicked in Thursday amid high testing demand, was recommended by Miami-Dade County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Peter Paige to ensure people get the most accurate test results possible, county spokeswoman Natalia Jaramillo said Friday in an email to the Miami Herald. Both tests will be administered during the same appointment.

People who want a PCR test will not be required to get an antigen test, according to Miami New Times, which first reported on the updated policy.

The change comes as Florida sees a record-breaking number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, fueled by the spread of the more contagious delta variant. Long lines are forming at popular test sites like Tropical Park and hospitals are seeing an influx of patients again, this time said to be younger and mostly unvaccinated.

Some hospitals, including Memorial Healthcare System in South Broward, have temporarily paused elective surgeries to help preserve space and staff to help care for COVID patients.

“The three best tools we have to combat the recent surge in our community are 1) vaccination, 2) testing and 3) wearing a mask,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a statement. “It’s extremely important to identify positive cases as early as possible to help stop the spread, and this new policy will help ensure our community has timely, accurate information about COVID positivity.”

Here’s what else you should know:

What’s the difference between an antigen and PCR test?

Antigen tests usually provide results within 24 hours, and sometimes results are available within an hour. Some at-home antigen tests, like the ones sold through CVS and Walgreens, give results within 15 minutes. However, antigen tests are less “sensitive,” which means false negative results occur more often compared to PCR tests.

PCR test results, on the other hand, are usually ready within a few days. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, results can arrive within a few hours, too. And yes, there are also at-home PCR tests you can buy through select retailers like CVS and Walgreens.

Remember, anyone who was in close contact (within 6 feet of someone for at least 15 minutes) with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should quarantine and get tested, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fully vaccinated people don’t have to quarantine unless they have symptoms and should be tested 3 to 5 days after exposure, regardless if they have symptoms or not, the CDC says.

You have antigen results but are waiting on PCR test. What should you do?

Miami-Dade County recommends that anyone with COVID symptoms isolate until they receive a negative PCR result. People who are asymptomatic should continue to follow key COVID precautions, including masking, social distancing and sanitizing.

How to find a COVID test site?

All state-run testing sites are closed, including the popular site at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. County-run sites are still open. Select pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, hospitals, clinics, urgent care centers and doctors’ offices are also offering testing.

In Miami-Dade, the best way to find a free drive-through or walk-up test site is to use the county’s online COVID-19 test site locator to find one closest to your home.

Once you plug in your ZIP code, you can filter the site by a variety of factors, including what type of tests it offers and whether it’s a drive-through or walk-up test site. The locator also gives information on every test site’s hours, if appointments are required and if there is a minimum age (important if you want to test children).

Broward also has an online locator you can use to find a drive-thru or walk-up test site. Broward testing sites only offer PCR tests.

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