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Researchers believe we may be testing for omicron incorrectly, missing positive cases

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New research indicates the nasal swab is collecting samples from the wrong area of the nose.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University researchers announced on Thursday that there’s been a renewed focus on the evaluation of how we test for COVID-19 and specifically for the omicron variant.

Professors at the university believe we may be testing incorrectly and missing potential cases because of it.

If you go get a COVID-19 test today, both PCR tests and rapid or at-home tests swab for the virus high up in the nasal cavity.

“We’re finding more evidence that the actual area of the upper respiratory tract that we see more of the virus is lower,” said Justin Sanders, PHD. at Oregon State University, “all of our rapid tests depend on the nasal swab and that’s being suggested as maybe not the best specimen for omicron.”

This news and potential break through come as the Biden administration has spent millions of dollars to send at-home COVID-19 tests to American homes. While those tests are starting to arrive, many have not been dispersed yet but the checks have been signed, the orders are in and there’s no going back. So where does this leave us?

“That’s the only tool we have and while we need to improve the accuracy of these tests that’s all we have and that’s why the CDC guidance says if you’re exposed you need to test multiple times, not just one time to ensure its safe,” said Chunhuei Chi, Sc.D., MPH at Oregon State University.

The reality is, that’s easier said than done; tests are hard to come by and while the recent purchase and work to distribute at-home tests to Americans is hoping to make access to testing easier, its not clear if there will be access to enough tests for people to do the “serial testing” that’s recommended.