Pros and cons of rapid COVID-19 testing

Antigen tests are fast, but not as accurate as other COVID-19 tests

COVID-19 testing has been a critical step to maintaining a safe environment through the course of the pandemic. There are both positives and negatives to the various types of testing available, each type of test best suited for certain situations.


Antigen tests are significantly cheaper than PCR tests, allowing many tests to be distributed with a much lower cost. Families and schools are not required to bear the cost of the tests, making them more accessible to larger populations, including low income areas.

The state has purchased 5 million BinaxNOW antigen test kits, produced by Abbot Labs for $5 each, and distributes them to districts at no charge, eliminating the need for billing,” EdSource states.

On the other hand, PCR COVID-19 testing can be expensive, especially when many people need to be tested—such as COVID testing at schools. The cost of PCR testing would be too expensive for schools with thousands of students.

In January, districts balked when Gov. Gavin Newsom first proposed making regular testing a requirement for receiving $2 billion in state funding, citing the cost—over $50 per test at that point—and logistics of setting up testing sites on their own,” EdSource states.

Time Frame

Both the PCR and antigen tests generate results within a short time frame. According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, PCR tests generate results within 48 hours of the test being taken, while antigen tests generate results in as little as 15 minutes. 

Because antigen test results are produced much faster than PCR test results, they prove more fitting for schools and other areas with large quantities of people. Additionally, COVID-19 tests are required when people  travel to certain areas or countries, and antigen tests allow for results to be generated before people travel, closer to the date of departure.

“It usually takes me about a day, two days max to get my results back,” sophomore Pia Atal said.

With the rapid testing that has been taking place at OPHS, students are notified of their results within about 48 hours, allowing them to confirm their safety while being on campus.


According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, PCR tests are the “most sensitive and accurate” type of test while antigen tests are less accurate.

This can prove to be detrimental with both false positive and false negative test results. According to Yale Medicine, the FDA recommends taking multiple tests over several days to offset the possibility of a false negative result from an antigen test. Additionally, while PCR tests may result in false positives due to its high test sensitivity, they are more effective in reducing the risk of a false negative, which is “extremely important” in the presence of COVID-19 variants, according to Yale Medicine.


Overall, antigen tests are a suitable option for many people as they are cheap, generate fast results and are somewhat accurate. This allows larger populations to be tested for a much lower cost and within a smaller time frame compared to PCR testing. On the other hand, antigen tests are not the most accurate form of testing available, as PCR tests are proven to generate results with a higher accuracy. With antigen tests, high accuracy and precision is exchanged for speed.

COVID-19 testing for OPHS students is simple and fast, as students test themselves. Testing is required once weekly for any student who participates in an extracurricular activity associated with OPHS.

“I have a really good experience with COVID testing on campus. It’s super smooth, super easy to do, and the color staff are super friendly and helping,” Atal said.

For a complete list of OPUSD sites for PCR COVID-19 testing, click here.