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The sharp rise in COVID-19 cases attributed to the Omicron variant so close after the winter holidays is a nonscientific (but probably accurate) indicator that people spent a lot of time in tight quarters, unmasked, with others whose immunization or exposure status was unknown to them. The more ominous prospect, given that many individuals got rapid tests (or insisted that visitors do so) before gathering, is that rapid antigen tests may not be much help in identifying infection with Omicron COVID. According to an article just published by MedPage Today, their reliability in doing so depends on several factors. Perhaps most significantly, two of Omicron’s mutations exist in a nonimmunogenic site where they’re unlikely to be detected by a rapid test. (At least one test manufacturer claims its home test kit are able to detect COVID due to Omicron, and a study conducted in the United Kingdom found that at-home tests similar to those used in this country did not result in any false negative results.) The biotech expert from the MedPage Today article opined that Omicron’s presume rapid replication may result in a tighter timeframe in which test results would be reliable. Urgent care providers may be well-advised to counsel patients on the importance of maintaining precautionary measures like mask-wearing and maintaining space intervals while indoors with other people regardless of immunization status or recent test results.

We Know Omicron Continues to Wreak Havoc; the Question Is, Do Patients?