Is the PCR Test for COVID-19 Accurate?

Picture of COVID-19 molecules.Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all been introduced to a number of new terms, one of them being “PCR testing.” What exactly is a PCR test, and is this form of testing accurate? PhysicianOne Urgent Care has the answers you need.

What Is PCR Testing?

Before delving into the accuracy of PCR testing, it may be helpful to explain exactly what PCR tests are and how they differ from rapid antigen tests. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is conducted using a nasopharyngeal swab and looks for the genetic material of the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). This is different than rapid antigen testing, which is also performed using a nasopharyngeal swab but looks for protein fragments specific to the COVID-19 virus.

What to Expect During a PCR Test

During a PCR test, the provider will insert a long swab into your nostril and rub it against the back of your nose to collect a sample (in some instances, you may be asked to do this yourself). While you may feel some discomfort, the test should not be painful. Once the sample has been collected, the provider will place the swab into a tube, seal it, and send it to a lab for analysis.

Is PCR Testing Accurate?

Yes, PCR test results are generally considered to be accurate. While rapid antigen tests commonly produce false negatives and false positives—especially when a COVID-19 infection is still in its early stages—these issues are much less likely to occur with PCR tests. Plus, in addition to identifying an active infection, PCR tests are also able to detect traces of a previous infection. For these reasons, PCR tests are frequently referred to as the “gold standard” of COVID-19 testing.

The only drawback to PCR tests is that results generally take longer to receive than those from rapid antigen tests. However, considering how much more accurate PCR testing is, it’s usually the only option accepted by schools, employers, and other institutions.

PCR Testing Near You

If you’re concerned that you might have COVID-19, you can turn to PhysicianOne Urgent Care for walk-in PCR testing. Our physician-led practice has been treating patients since 2008, and we’re pleased to operate locations across Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. In addition to PCR tests, we also offer rapid antigen tests and antibody tests (which can indicate whether someone previously had COVID-19), and we’ll be glad to recommend the option that’s best suited to your needs. And if you’re unsure about whether you need to get tested, you’ll be glad to know that we also offer virtual visits that allow you to speak with an experienced provider from the comfort of your own home.

Contact PhysicianOne Urgent Care today at 860-650-3848 if you’d like to know more about our practice or our COVID-19 testing options.

Health News + Events

What to Expect With COVID-19 & Back-to-School Protocols

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, it turned life upside down for more than 50 million school-age children across the country. In fact, according to Ed  Read More

TikTok Health Hacks: Safe or Sham?

No matter your preferred social media channel, you’ve likely seen viral health hacks for everything from congestion to snoring to weight loss. We turned to our team of certified  Read More

How to Treat a Dog Bite

Dogs are undoubtedly man’s best friend, but even the friendliest of creatures can sometimes get spooked or display aggressive behavior. Bites can even happen when giving an excit  Read More

What Our Patients Are Saying

Rating 4.6
Rating 4.2
Rating 4.6
Rating 5.0

"The overall care I received was excellent! I also appreciate your affiliation with Yale New Haven Hospital."

Derby, CT

"Throughout the visit I felt like the staff really cared. The Doctor took his time talking with me about my symptoms, and I felt like he listened to all my concerns and took that into consideration when recommending the right treatment. Thank you!"

Hamden, CT

"I had to take my son in for an ear infection following a sudden change in temperament at daycare. He was inconsolable the entire car ride but when we got there and by the time we left this care facility he was back to his normal happy go lucky little two year old boy. I highly recommend PhysicianOne Urgent Care."

Westwood, MA

"I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the attention you gave me last week. My son was started on antibiotics and ear drops. Within 24 hours he began to feel better. The poor kid had been going to school in tears because he was afraid of missing any more days, but feeling (and looking) just awful! He's not been able to even think about lacrosse practice, but thanks to starting him on antibiotics, he was thrilled to return to practice today."

Somers, NY