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Which COVID-19 Test Is Right For You?

CHANHASSEN, Minn. (WCCO) --  The demand for COVID-19 testing continues to grow as Omicron sweeps across the country.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday that the state would be providing more resources, including three new community testing sites and at-home rapid tests for families with kids in school.

But is there a better time to take a PCR test versus a rapid test?

"The right test is the one that you can get access to, and I know that's a little simplistic," CentraCare COVID-19 Incident Commander Dr. George Morris said.

The FDA says rapid tests do detect Omicron but may have reduced sensitivity.

"They detect more of just the presence of high viral load," Morris said.

Morris says rapid antigen tests can have false negatives if there is not enough viral load yet present, but they're still useful.

If you're planning a gathering, you could take one rapid test a few days prior and another the morning of.

"The antigen-based tests are really best or better used for 'am I contagious or not'," Morris said.

Experts say PCR tests work to detect if the coronavirus is present in the body. So, people could test positive on a PCR test even if they are no longer contagious.

Dr. Morris says if you suddenly have COVID symptoms and get a negative rapid test, you should still stay away from others and wear a mask. He also says to try testing with another test a couple of days later.

"The tests are helpful to make a better decision, but it's not the only factor; perhaps I'm in an industry where I really need to be at work," Morris said.

If you do get a positive on a rapid antigen test, Morris says there's no need to then take a PCR; false positives are rare.

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