One widespread falsehood: The rapid tests are “preset” to show positive results as part of a conspiracy to control global population. Though such claims have repeatedly been debunked, they have reemerged in popular podcasts and YouTube videos.
For example, an unverified, anonymous Twitter user, “The Architect,” has nearly 30,000 followers. The account has spewed out a raft of misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, including the post below about rapid tests.
Variations of this claim have been circulating across social media for more than a year, despite being repeatedly debunked. For example, on Instagram, thousands of users shared a false claim that rapid tests were invented so Bill Gates and George Soros could use them to secretly vaccinate those refusing the COVID-19 vaccines.
That claim was debunked by factcheck.org. Another version baselessly claimed that rapid tests were a way for the government and “big pharma” to “harvest” people’s fingerprints and DNA. Misinformation about test kits inflicted fear or disbelief and often were the reason many refused to be tested, Reuters reported in 2020.
The claim that rapid tests are “preset” is false.
At-home kits contain SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests that can detect fragments of virus material and give results in less than 15 minutes. In the United States, some at-home test kits don’t require a doctor’s prescription; they are sold in pharmacies and grocery stores.
Forty two rapid tests have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including “DTC” (direct-to-consumer) home collection tests and others that are used by special labs.
Although accuracy varies, studies show that some of the leading at-home test kits correctly identify a COVID-19 infection in about 4 of 5 actual cases. Health authorities recommend taking the tests more than once to be confident in the results.
A review published in March 2021 of 64 studies concluded that rapid antigen tests are accurate in 72% of people with symptoms and 58% without symptoms. The studies found that the tests can produce both false positives (when the test says infection and none truly exists) and false negatives (the test says no infection when someone is really ill).
Scientists are working to reduce the number of false positive results from the rapid tests, since they can lead to unnecessary quarantines or medical treatment. On the other hand, false negative results can help spread the virus, since infected people believe they aren't.
Given their reliability issues, some health authorities recommend using the more accurate RT-PCR tests. Results from PCR tests, which are lab processed, can take 24 to 48 hours to arrive.
Polygraph.info has previously covered some other coronavirus disinformation on breakthrough infections and vaccines.
Since its emergence in late 2019, the coronavirus killed more than 5.5 million people worldwide. Over the last 24 hours, the World Health Organization registered more than 1.7 million new infections.