Use of Rapid Antigen Testing for SARS-CoV-2 in Remote Communities — Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region, Alaska, September 15, 2020–March 1, 2021
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Use of Rapid Antigen Testing for SARS-CoV-2 in Remote Communities — Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region, Alaska, September 15, 2020–March 1, 2021

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  • Alternative Title:
    MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep
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    Controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the Virus that causes COVID-19, in Alaska is challenging. Alaska includes many remote and isolated villages with small populations (ranging from 15 to >1,000 persons) that are accessible only by air from larger communities. Until rapid point-of-care tTesting became widely available, a primary challenge in the Diagnosis of COVID-19 in rural Alaska was slow turnaround times for SARS-CoV-2 test results, attributable to the need to transport specimens to tTesting facilities. To provide more timely test results and isolation of cases, the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) introduced Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag rapid antigen test (BinaxNOW) on November 9, 2020, in the rural Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region in southwestern Alaska. To evaluate the impact of implementing antigen tTesting, YKHC reviewed the results of 54,981 antigen and molecular tests for SARS-CoV-2 performed in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta during September 15, 2020-March 1, 2021. Introduction of rapid, point-of-care tTesting was followed by a more than threefold reduction in daily SARS-CoV-2 case rates during approximately 1 month before the introduction of COVID-19 vaccination. The median turnaround time for SARS-CoV-2 test results decreased by >30%, from 6.4 days during September 15-November 8, 2020, to 4.4 days during November 9, 2020-March 1, 2021 (p<0.001). Daily incidence decreased 65% after the introduction of BinaxNOW, from 342 cases per 100,000 population during the week of November 9 to 119 during the week of December 13 (p<0.001). These findings indicate that point-of-care rapid antigen tTesting can be a valuable tool in reducing turnaround times in rural communities where local access to laboratory-based nucleic acid amplification tTesting (NAAT) is not readily available and could thereby reduce Transmission by facilitating rapid isolation of infected persons, contact tracing, and implementation of local mitigation strategies.
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