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Guestwords: At-Home Test Fails

Wed, 12/29/2021 - 17:44

’Twas the week before Christmas and all through the town, Covid-19 tests were needed, you bet, and how. With long lines at walk-ins and appointments for PCRs nigh impossible, I headed to the pharmacy for a home kit. Reliable reports had BinaxNow as the most accurate — even at only 85-percent accuracy — so I went a-hunting for BinaxNow.

Walgreens was sold out. The manager said they would have some more kits in a week, maybe, or two weeks, maybe, and they would get 100 in the morning and be sold out within an hour. Just like that morning’s delivery.

CVS Southampton was sold out.

A CVS in East Hampton had BinaxNow. Bingo! A whole rack. I took two boxes from the large display case clearly marked BinaxNow and whilst reading the instructions noticed they said Quidel QuickVue. These were definitely not BinaxNow or BinaxLater or BinaxEver.

The pharmacist had no explanation for the bait-and-switch, and simply said, “It doesn’t matter. They’re all exactly the same.”

I had no time to debate fake pharmacy news for the hordes were descending and I had just hit some second-rate jackpot and felt a combination of instant relief and long-haul anxiety. Yippee, we could take a test. Uh-oh, what if my wife and/or I tested positive? That would be negative. We both have the same serious health condition: Three score and 15 years under our respective belts. (I know: Her belt is way shorter than mine, and genuine leather to boot.)

In an effort to test ourselves correctly, we both read every syllable on the cover, sides, and back of the Quidel QuickVue box. Three significant bullet points were highlighted:

•Two (2) tests with simple instructions.

•The test is intended to be used twice over two to three days, with at least 24 hours and no more than 36 between tests.

•Rapid results in 10 mins.

Having purchased two boxes, or four tests, I was feeling pretty savvy. “Hold on,” said the missus. “How can you wait no longer than 36 hours and yet complete two tests over three days? Thirty-six hours is only a day and a half — unless there has been a change in the Gregorian calendar or space-time continuum.” 

Fair point, my dear know-it-all. I called the phone number on the back of the box, 833.QUICKVUE. I asked the question. Here was the answer:

“If you take the first test at 10 a.m. on Friday night —” said the lady rep.

“Excuse my interruption,” I interrupted, “but 10 a.m. would be Friday morning, no?” 

“Oh, right. I meant 10 p.m. on Friday night. If you took the first test Friday night at 10 p.m. and then took the second test at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, that would span a three-day weekend, but it’s not three days if you count each day as 24 hours.”

“I think most people count each day as 24 hours.”

“But not over a three-day weekend.”

“So this is a weekend Covid-19 QuickVue test?”

“No. Any three days will work.”

“But three days is twice as long as 36 hours.”

“I understand that a day usually means 24 hours but if you took the first test tonight, Tuesday, at 10 p.m. and waited until Thursday morning to take the second test, that would be over three days and only 36 hours. Now do you understand the simple instructions?”

“Not really. When your box says ‘rapid results in 10 mins,’ are there still 60 seconds in a min?”

“Of course, but we’ve actually changed the wording on the box.”

“You did? When?”

“Yesterday.”

“Within the last 24 hours?”

“I can’t say that for certain.”

“What, no more results in 10 mins?”  

“Yes, that hasn’t changed. What’s changed on the new box is that it now says the test is intended to be used twice over two to three days, with at least 24 hours and no more than 48 between tests — 48 hours, not 36. Does that clear up your question?”

“I’m not so sure. Forty-eight hours still sounds like two days.”

“I have already explained this twice.”

“Maybe a third time would do the trick, like that magical third day on the box.”

“Well, this is the way we chose to disseminate the information.”

“Why can’t you take the second test 50 hours later or 60 or 72?”

“Obviously, I wasn’t in the room when that decision was made so I can’t tell you the exact thinking behind the decision, but that is the QuickVue decision. Any other questions?”

“Just one. If QuickVue changed the wording, someone must have realized it was unclear on the first box, but the new wording doesn’t really clear up that initial misunderstanding and these tests are rather important to the people buying them and to their families and their communities and therefore the State of New York and the nation as a whole.”

“What’s your question, sir?”

“Where can I find BinaxNow?”

“Good day, sir.”

“Happy New Year, ma’am.”


Bruce Buschel lives in Bridgehampton.


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