Trust & Verify: Does the omicron COVID-19 variant produce false negatives on tests?

Published: April 11, 2022 3:33 PM EDT
Updated: April 11, 2022 4:36 PM EDT

Do the omicron variants of COVID-19 produce false negatives on rapid COVID-19 tests? That’s the rumor circulating on social media, but is it true? Trust and Verify reporter Lisa Hutson has the answer.

The omicron variants of covid 19 began popping up in late 2021 and brought with them a flurry of questions about testing. Can rapid tests still detect the ba1 and ba2 variants? WINK News went to the FDA, the CDC and a COVID advisory board out of Canada to find out.

There are a number of false online claims of false-negative test results from at-home tests. Many people test negative and then positive days later. The FDA is monitoring test effectiveness, and says, “Early data suggests that antigen tests do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity.”

How reduced? The Science Table, a group of Canadian doctors and scientists following the pandemic, compared several studies. It found the at-home or antigen tests detected 81% of delta cases but only 37% of omicron, which would include the new sub-variant.

When it comes to COVID testing, timing is key. The CDC recommends waiting five days after you suspect you’ve been exposed to test for the virus.

Can you trust your at-home COVID-19 test to pick up omicron variants ba1 and ba2? Most likely, but testing too early may get you a negative result.

If you have a question you want Lisa Hutson to answer, email her at [email protected]