COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – State health officials say ‘at home’ rapid tests are an extra tool in the toolbox in the fight against COVID-19.

These at home test kits can be found for purchase at local pharmacies in South Carolina. Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly says the rapid tests can give people their results within 15 minutes.

“Home testing is a great tool in making personal decisions on getting together with others,” said Kelly.

Dr. Kelly said the downside of these rapid tests is that they’re not as sensitive as the PCR or molecular tests. Those tests take about 24 to 48 hours to get results. She said they’re considered the ‘gold standard’.

If you are testing yourself using a rapid test kit, Dr. Kelly recommends testing multiple times before gathering with family this Christmas. She said do a test 24 hours before you’re supposed to get together. Then another test the morning of your gathering. If you test negative both times you’re good to go.

Dr. Kelly said if you’re showing symptoms of COVID-19, you should probably get a PCR test. She said, “If you have symptoms and you have a negative rapid test. I would not trust that. It’s reported one in five will give you a false negative.”

Dr Kelly says if you test positive with the rapid test, you should contact your health care provider right away.

“There are two reasons to contact your healthcare provider,” said Dr. Kelly. “There may be other treatments you could receive like monoclonal antibodies. Your healthcare provider will also want to repeat your tests so they can do the genome testing and figure out if you have the omicron variant.”

By getting this PCR test, DHEC will have be able to record a positive test in their database.

“If you test positive at home we don’t know about it. We only know about the tests done in a doctors office or by an individual certified to do those tests,” said Dr. Kelly.

President Joe Biden announced a plan to send out 500 million free ‘at home’ rapid tests starting next month.