Illinois to distribute 170K rapid COVID-19 tests, less accurate than PCR lab-based test

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that the first shipments of about 170,000 rapid COVID-19 tests manufactured by Abbott Labs are being distributed across the state. But there are questions about those tests' accuracy.

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Gov. JB Pritzker gives the daily COVID-19 briefing on October 21, 2020.

In just one day, nearly 1,300 people will come through Innovative Express Care in Lincoln Park to get tested for COVID-19.

Abdullah Alqaroot came to get tested Wednesday. He's concerned that he's been exposed to the virus after his jogging partner tested positive.

RELATED: Illinois reports most COVID-19 deaths in a day since mid-June

"I'm feeling all right, maybe a little of anxiety about it," Alqaroot said.

Because of Alqaroot's exposure to COVID-19, he was given two tests. The first is the standard, lab-based PCR test, which takes two to four days to get results. The second is a rapid test, which can be processed in 15 minutes.

"They said they expect around 2 to 4 hours from now for result but they caution it may not be accurate," he said.

That question of accuracy has prompted Innovative Care CEO Doctor Rahul Khare to give both tests to people who have either been exposed to COVID-19 or are showing symptoms.

Khare said rapid tests are about 85% as accurate as the lab-based tests, which he calls the gold-standard.

"We have had a significant amount of patients who come back negative with the rapid test but then two days later come back positive with their PCR lab-based test," Dr. Khare said.

Still, Dr. Khare said rapid tests can be a helpful tool with trying to stop the spread of COVID.

"We are piloting their usage in several different settings in order to gather more data about their accuracy and sensitivity, and then adjusting our plan to achieve the maximum impact," Gov. Pritzker said.

The majority of those tests are being shipped directly to health departments and will be administered as needed to different communities.

The news comes as Illinois public health officials announced 4,342 new cases of COVID-19, along with 69 additional deaths, Wednesday.

That is the most COVID-19 related deaths in a single day reported in Illinois since June 17.
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