When in COVID-19 cycle should you get a PCR test or take a rapid test?

Doctor says PCR test better after early exposure risk

Drivers lined up early for COVID-19 tests at Miramar's newest testing site at the Vernon E. Hargray Youth Center.

MIRAMAR, Fla. – A new COVID-19 testing site in Miramar has been going strong since it opened on Thursday stretching all the way out to Miramar parkway. The site at Vernon E. Hargray Youth Enhancement Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but the last car is allowed to enter the line at 3:30 p.m., according to organizers.

The site offers both rapid antigen and PCR tests, so it is important to know which one is which.

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“The thing with this pandemic from the start is that people can be contagious before they have symptoms,” according to Dr. Nate Hafter, University of Massachusetts’ director of operations for the Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

“Both of these tests are very accurate,” Hafer said, adding that PCR tests are the better option when a person first faces an exposure risk.

“Because the PCR test is amplifying the genetic material, it is usually sensitive enough to detect the virus and the infection early on,” Hafer said.

The at-home rapid antigen tests work well when a person is already showing symptoms and at the end of the infection.

“(When) you are not really contagious anymore, it is going to be negative,” Hafer said.

Find out which sites across South Florida offer PCR and rapid tests.

About the Authors:

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."