Health Advice



Make your holiday gatherings COVID-safer with rapid tests

Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

But if it's a holiday weekend visit, he and Wachter suggested testing more than once — say, just before arriving and again in a day or two — especially if you'll be in the presence of unvaccinated people. "Two negative tests, you're really good to go," Jha said, adding that if you're around people at high risk of COVID complications, you could even take a test daily.

"In an unvaccinated population, one single test is probably not good enough," Jha said. For proof, he pointed to the ceremony President Trump held last year for new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Attendees had to have gotten a negative test result to gain admission but it still turned into something close to a superspreader event.

How do you test yourself?

The typical process starts with taking a sterile swab from the kit and tracing the inside of each nostril several times. That gathers the sample. The next step depends on the type of test.


With molecular tests, the swab is inserted into a small container, where the sample is mixed with a reagent, a substance that starts the process of revealing the sample's genetic makeup. The container is then placed in a base unit, where the magic (technically, the isothermal amplification) happens. The results appear on the base unit or in a smartphone app.

With antigen tests, the swab is placed in a disposable reader (often made of paper) where it meets a test strip. You add a few drops of the kit's reagent, then watch to see whether the strip shows a positive, negative or inconclusive result.

Be sure to read and follow the instructions carefully to collect a proper sample and avoid contamination. With the popular BinaxNow test, for example, you're supposed to swab each of your nostrils for 15 seconds and rotate the swab three times after placing it in the reagent.

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