Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: The complicated tale of COVID-19 test kits

May 5, 2022, 4:00 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 12:37 pm
COVID-19 testing kits...
FILE - Health Department worker holds two at-home COVID-19 test kits.

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is seeing another Omicron sub-variant resulting in a mini-spike in COVID-19 cases. The outbreak is worst in the east right now, however, it’s heading west. Of course, with most using COVID-19 test kits in the privacy of their homes these days, it’s hard to know for sure. 

I know what you’re saying: why does he have to talk about COVID-19? 

Here’s the data I actually have: 13 people I know in Utah got COVID-19 last week. Some were pretty sick; others not so much. They all took home COVID-19 tests.

Maybe you have a few in the house. But here’s a question: Do they expire? Do home test kits have a shelf life?

Don’t go looking at the back of the box for answers. Like everything else with COVID-19, the answer is complicated.

Looking at the Abbott Labs Binax Now COVID-19 test, there’s a complicated sticker on the back that’s filled with more numbers than a tenth-grade math test. I’m guessing from the numbers, that this test kit was created on November eleventh of last year. It looks like the expiration date was May second of this year. I assume the test kit is no good. Expired.

As it turns out, the FDA let companies stamp the expiration date on the boxes even though they still have no idea how long these kits last.  My Binax test has a six-month shelf life.  But even though the expiration date is right there on the box, it’s just a guess.

Expiration dates are changed as they gather more data. For instance, the Binax test I’m holding: it expired two days ago but digging on the web, I discovered the FDA extended it for another nine months. So it’s still good even though the box says it’s bad. How would you know that you’re supposed to go to

Like everything with COVID-19, these tests — are complicated.


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