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COVID-19 Tests: What Are The Differences? When Might You Want To Take More Than One?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minnesota Department of Health wants Minnesotans to get tested for COVID-19 before seeing family for the holidays.

But there are different options now. So, which type of test is more accurate, and when might you want to take more than one?

There are two types of COVID-19 tests: PCR or molecular tests, which can be saliva or swab. Then there are antigen tests, sometimes called rapid tests.

Health officials says PCR tests are the most accurate, but your results won't be the quickest. That's where the antigen tests come in handy.

"I carry these with me. I've stocked up on them for my home visits," said Dr. Frank Rhame, an Allina Health infectious disease specialist.

He says positive results from at-home antigen tests are reliable. However, false negatives are not unheard of. He said tests can miss a real infection especially, if it's early and you don't have symptoms.

"They're not as good with very small amounts of the virus as PCR is," Rhame said. "Those negatives the ones that miss are probably the least hazardous because they have the least amount of virus."

But what about using both?

Rhame says it's not a bad idea. If you need to be extra sure before a holiday gathering, doubling up is a good plan.

Get a PCR test as close to an event or gathering as you can. Then do a rapid test the day of, Rhame said.

Results from state PCR tests come a day or two after samples arrive in the lab. Currently, a more rapid PCR test is in the works.

"They're actually coming," Rhame said.

Free state testing sights are offering a combination of PCR and antigen tests.

For more information on the types of tests available, click here. For more on free state testing options, click here.

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