Last week YKHC received 4,000 Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 cards from the State of Alaska and will soon incorporate use of them throughout our health system. In addition to extensive, continued use of molecular (PCR) testing processed, Abbott BinaxNOW cards are an antigen test administered by nasal swab by health aides in village clinics without access to rapid molecular (or PCR) tests and provide point of care results.
PCR testing detects genetic material of COVID-19, so it remains the most accurate and sensitive method for COVID-19 detection—particularly in asymptomatic individuals. However, antigen tests detect protein in an active COVID-19 infection, which make them useful in a setting of a community outbreak to determine if an individual’s symptoms are COVID-19. In other words, an Abbott BinaxNOW positive result is a helpful tool to get people into isolation more quickly, but a negative result does not rule out infection and YKHC may recommend follow-up testing if symptoms persist.
Abbott BinaxNOW cards will not be available in the Bethel hospital or Sub-Regional Clinics, where rapid PCR testing is currently available. Next week, YKHC will begin shipping BinaxNOW cards to village clinics with no other form of rapid testing.
YKHC reminds the public that testing is not a replacement for quarantine. While testing is a useful method to identify COVID-19 cases, it does not provide protection from or treatment for the virus. YKHC urge the public to practice all known protective measures, including: avoid hosting or attending gatherings of any kind, avoid all non-essential travel, opt for free COVID-19 testing upon arrival at the Bethel, St. Mary’s, and Aniak airports when arriving from out-of-region, practice regular handwashing, remain physically distant (more than six feet) from anyone who does not reside in your same household, wear a mask when in public, and frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home.