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Are rapid tests reliable? Some Central Texas residents struggle with conflicting results

One Round Rock mother is trying to figure out if her son has COVID-19 or not after two tests taken on the same day showed different results.

A Round Rock mother is searching for answers after her son received two different coronavirus test results after taking a rapid test and a regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test recently. 

"It would be nice if we could depend on these results but, unfortunately, we are unclear," said Cindy Barrientos 

Barrientos is paraplegic and immunocompromised. She relies on her son as a caretaker for her and her husband, who recently had heart surgery. 

Her son was recently tested for COVID-19.

"Both tests were taken on the same day, one was rapid and was considered positive and the other was considered negative," said Barrientos. 

Two tests on the same day with different results. But how? 

Local emergency room physician Dr. Natasha Kathuria said there are a few reasons this can happen.


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"There's a 20% false-negative rate, meaning 20% of patients will get tested and get a negative result will actually have coronavirus. The virus isn't at a detectible level yet. That doesn't mean they don't have it just because they get a negative test result," said Dr. Kathuria.

Does this mean rapid tests are unreliable? Dr. Kathuria says no, that the PCR rapid test is the best option for someone who is showing symptoms right now.

"It's still the best test for an active infection, not the antibody test or the antigen test," said Dr. Kathuria. "We just need to be really cautious with quarantining and being really cautious with symptoms even with a negative test."


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