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Rapid testing: The most misunderstood tool in the fight against COVID-19

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Originally published in USA Today, Feb 3, 2022

The team at Rapid Test & Trace began petitioning government to make self-testing free for the public in late 2020. They aggregated public healthcare professionals and medical specialists to help foster partnerships with the business and cultural sectors. As a volunteer advocacy group, RTT championed the need for public access to rapid testing and played a significant role in raising awareness of the benefits of rapid testing for COVID-19.

Society, however, has been slow to welcome rapid testing into its daily routine.

In a survey conducted by RTT in November 2021, only 26.4% of Americans indicated they would ask family and friends to obtain a COVID-19 test before visiting. 9.1% of the respondents said they would find it awkward to broach the subject, while 8.0% admitted “they’d like to ask but can’t!” Shockingly, when asked if they thought most Americans would ask their guests to be COVID-tested, a whopping 81.6% said “no!” Yet, the survey also showed that 62.7% were willing to take a COVID test before visiting family (if asked), 17.7% were unsure, and only 19.7% said “no.”

RTT implemented a campaign to remove the “awkward” from posing an uncomfortable question. The result was a unique approach to asking people to get a rapid COVID test. The campaign revolved around holiday eCards with greetings like “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year (If You Test COVID Clear),” and it certainly took the acrimony out of asking that dreaded question!

But behind the humor, the stark reality is that COVID-19 is here to stay. The definition of “new normal” seems to be constantly shifting. And it’s all thanks to the prolific evolution of the coronavirus. A little over a year after the onset of the pandemic, the heavily-mutated Omicron variant spread rapidly throughout the world.

How many more variants of concern will we see before we truly achieve global herd immunity? What will it be like in years to come — will we safely communicate with colleagues via video calls when working in the same building? Will we don clothing that glows when the virus is detected? Who knows…

Regardless of what the next iteration of the “new normal” turns out to be, one fact remains — the isolation of infectious people helps contain the spread of the contagion. However, the step before isolation is identification, and that requires easy access to mass rapid testing. The limited availability of over-the-counter (OTC) rapid test kits is a serious disadvantage in our fight to stop the spread of COVID.

In mid-2020, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identified testing as a cornerstone of their response policy to lift restrictions related to COVID-19. Countless countries have not only adopted widespread testing but also expanded access to self-testing. These nations have put rapid testing at the forefront of their public health policies during the pandemic.

The U.S. government’s view that rapid testing is less accurate than PCR tests hindered the push for widescale distribution. Yet, in nations such as the U.K., rapid testing has proven to be an effective early screening process that formed part of their plans to reopen society. Across the channel, there are over 30 rapid tests in Europe carrying the EU’s mark of compliance, while dozens are available on the market in Germany alone.

To a large degree, the U.S. and Canada muddled the rollout of rapid testing through a mix of confused messaging and poor access to rapid tests. Both countries waited until October 2020 to approve a rapid antigen testing device for COVID-19. The first tests to be approved were specifically for “point of care” and “professional use.” There was very limited support for self-testing throughout most of 2021, and this negative perception further exacerbated the problems in making rapid tests readily available.

According to the WHO’s global Coronavirus report, the U.S. averaged 120,000 cases per day in mid-December 2021. By this time, the nation was struggling to cope with almost 50 million total cases and more than 790,000 COVID-related deaths. With the onset of winter and the emergence of new variants of concern, the federal government had announced an action plan to protect Americans against these new threats in late 2021 which included self-testing. This shift was seen as an act of democratizing access to rapid tests — now there was a clear policy to expand OTC testing. It had an immediate effect as the market experienced a tangible surge in demand, resulting in a stressed supply chain. It was precisely such an environment that catalyzed companies like RTT to fill the void.

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The general public has been slow to adopt the routine use of rapid testing. Effective messaging and guidance from public health leaders are paramount in ensuring there is no confusion about the role of self-testing. In this regard, the team at RTT helps by sharing trustworthy information and simple-to-use instructions on their website.

RTT’s growing catalog of approved rapid tests includes iHealth, Inbios, and Flowflex, and retail between $9-$15 per test. The ecommerce company offers its line of FDA authorized rapid tests through its online shop and delivers between 2 to 6 days. The team is proud to help Americans manage their COVID-related risks. Regular rapid testing is a critical tool in the early detection of the infection. It allows people to make informed decisions to keep their families and work environment safe.

Scaling operations is a challenge for any business and is especially so for companies focused on COVID-19. With ecommerce operations in multiple countries, RTT’s established supply chain network and fulfillment expertise have helped manage through difficult scenarios.  RTT is preparing for the next phase of its growth as it develops into a broader telehealth company.

But for now, the knowledge that they are helping people stop the spread of COVID is what keeps them going — knowing they offer a range of products that bring people peace of mind.

About Rapid Test & Trace USA

Rapid Test & Trace USA is a specialized online retailer of rapid antigen tests for COVID-19. As part of Rapid Test & Trace's global operations that include in-country ecommerce businesses in Canada and Australia, and a virtual self-testing SaaS (software as a service), RTTUSA offers in-depth product knowledge and expertise to individuals and businesses. Consumers benefit from RTT's experience with rapid testing program planning and data management.

RTTUSA’s online store ships rapid COVID tests to people across the country and helps to provide Americans with a little peace of mind while coping with the challenges of the pandemic.

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