How over-the-counter COVID-19 tests could bring ease to family gatherings this holiday season

SAN ANTONIO – Add over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits to your grocery lists along with pumpkin pie and turkey this holiday season. Medical experts say the tests could be a tool to ensure the virus doesn’t spread during family gatherings.

Eric Tate is headed to see family during the holidays. After some research, he decided over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits were a good investment before those trips.

“My grandmother’s there, and we want to make sure that we’re testing negative before we go and visit with her. So I bought some tests for that reason,” he said.

Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist with the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, says at-home COVID-19 tests are a good extra safety precaution to have around.

“If that positive test keeps you from getting on a bus, plane or a train -- or going to visit a loved one in the hospital -- then that’s a really good thing,” Berggren said.

She says the tests are not perfect. Testing before symptoms show up could result in a false negative.

“If you have a positive test, you can believe it. If you have a negative test, it’s not quite as reliable,” Berggren said.

The accuracy depends on how strong the symptoms are and how well you follow the directions. Some tests are about 85% accurate, while others are lower.

The FDA has approved about a dozen over-the-counter tests, some with results are as quick as 15 minutes. Kids as young as 2 years old can be tested.

Users are recommended to follow up with their doctor after testing.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.