Connect with us

Government

Just how accurate are rapid antigen tests? Two testing experts explain the latest data

With the relaxation of mask-wearing mandates, there’s even more need to know how much over-the-counter tests help.

Published

on

Once in short supply, rapid antigen tests are now available throughout the U.S. Boy_Anupong/Moment via Getty Images

As of May 2022, the U.S. is experiencing another uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases. High rates of infection in Europe and Asia, along with the continued emergence of new sub-variants, such as omicron BA.4 and BA.5, raise concerns that another surge could be on the way.

Even though demand for COVID-19 tests greatly overwhelmed supply earlier in the pandemic, rapid home tests are more available today. While home tests provide a quick, accurate result, the flip side is that many test results are no longer reported to health authorities. The power behind widely available over-the-counter testing is that people can quickly and conveniently know their infection status early on to prevent spreading the virus to others.

We’re part of a team at UMass Chan Medical School that has been studying COVID-19 molecular, or PCR, and antigen test performance over the past two years. During this time, we’ve helped multiple companies generate the data needed to move their products through the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization process and into commercial development.

We have also conducted large-scale, real-world studies to understand how over-the-counter rapid tests perform in comparison to PCR tests in detecting different variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including among people without symptoms. We have also studied whether mass distribution of rapid antigen tests prior to a surge helps prevent spread, and whether users of these tests are likely to report the results to health departments.

These studies are beginning to provide researchers like us with evidence about how these tests perform and how we can use them to make the best public health recommendations moving forward.

A video journalist demonstrates how to take a rapid antigen test.

At-home tests and the omicron variant

When the omicron variant emerged in late November 2021, scientists quickly responded to determine how PCR and rapid tests performed against this new variant.

Researchers have demonstrated that an infected individual will test positive on a PCR test one to two days before an antigen test. This is because a PCR test works by amplifying the genetic material in a sample and is therefore able to detect extremely small amounts of viral material. In contrast, an over-the-counter test can only detect the viral proteins present in the sample.

Early in the omicron surge, around December 2021, people wondered about the ability of rapid tests to detect the new variant. Additionally, some preliminary tests proved that rapid tests that identify the omicron variant showed a one-to-two-day delay in a positive result compared to tests performed with the delta variant. This led to an FDA announcement on Dec. 28, urging caution in the use of tests for the detection of omicron.

The role of rapid antigen tests

During that time, our group was working on a study examining the performance of over-the-counter tests in the general population. We used data from this study to look at the performance of these tests both before and after omicron became the dominant variant in the United States. Our study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was unique because it was testing people for the COVID-19 virus over the course of two weeks, and thus we were able to observe emerging infections.

In our analysis of approximately 150 individuals who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during the study, we made two major observations. The first is that over-the-counter tests were able to detect the omicron variant as well as the delta variant.

Another is that serial testing – two tests taken 24 to 36 hours apart – is critical with rapid tests. This is because we observed that if a person had an infection that was detected by a PCR test for at least two days in a row, one or two of the over-the-counter tests taken over the same time also detected the infection more than 80% of the time. In comparison, a single rapid test detected far fewer infections.

Previous research by our study team and others suggests that over-the-counter tests are more likely to detect an infection among people who are actively contagious.

Rapid antigen tests are particularly useful when trying to determine whether you have an active infection and/or if you are still infectious.

Over-the-counter tests and reporting

In 2021, we evaluated whether mass distribution of over-the-counter tests can reduce transmission of the virus by comparing new cases in Washtenaw County, Michigan, which has a population of 370,000. Two communities that make up 140,000 of the total county population used more rapid tests and prevented an average of 40 cases of COVID-19 per day during the delta surge. Our findings suggest that rapid antigen tests are a critical public health tool that can help reduce the spread of disease during a surge.

But much of the research to date on over-the-counter SARS-CoV-2 tests has been done in controlled study settings. We want to know whether the performance of tests in a more realistic environment mirrors that observed in clinical studies.

One question is whether people will report over-the-counter tests to health departments. We conducted several studies where people signed up using their smartphone, received tests in the mail and took and reported tests via a smartphone app.

Our initial analysis of data from the Michigan study described above shows that 98% of individuals agreed to send test results to their state health department. But just about 1 in 3 participants at highest risk of infection – for example, those who didn’t mask in public and weren’t vaccinated – sent in their results. Participants who closely followed the instructions in the phone app reported more test results to their local health department than those who didn’t follow the instructions. We also observed that negative test results were reported more than positive results.

In another study, we showed that incentives make a difference when reporting test results. Sites with reporting incentives such as cash payments demonstrated significantly higher levels of reporting to their state health department than sites without incentives. In total, 75% of results logged in the phone app were reported. In all communities, positive tests were significantly less reported than negative tests.

These results indicate that app-based reporting with incentives may be an effective way to increase reporting of rapid tests for COVID-19. However, increasing adoption of the app is a critical first step.

These studies are ongoing and we continue to gain more insights into how people use rapid antigen tests. If you are interested in contributing to this science, you can see if you are eligible for a study.

Nathaniel Hafer receives funding from the National Institutes of Health via awards UL1TR001453 and U54HL143541.

Apurv Soni receives funding from the National Institutes of Health via awards UL1TR001453 and U54HL143541.

Read More

Continue Reading

Economics

Majority Of C-Suite Execs Thinking Of Quitting, 40% Overwhelmed At Work: Deloitte Survey

Majority Of C-Suite Execs Thinking Of Quitting, 40% Overwhelmed At Work: Deloitte Survey

Authored by Naveen Anthrapully via The Epoch Times,

A…

Published

on

Majority Of C-Suite Execs Thinking Of Quitting, 40% Overwhelmed At Work: Deloitte Survey

Authored by Naveen Anthrapully via The Epoch Times,

A majority of C-suite executives are considering leaving their jobs, according to a Deloitte survey of 2,100 employees and C-level executives from the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Almost 70 percent of executives admitted that they are seriously thinking of quitting their jobs for a better opportunity that supports their well-being, according to the survey report published on June 22. Over three-quarters of executives said that the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively affected their well-being.

Roughly one in three employees and C-suite executives admitted to constantly struggling with poor mental health and fatigue. While 41 percent of executives “always” or “often” felt stressed, 40 percent were overwhelmed, 36 percent were exhausted, 30 percent felt lonely, and 26 percent were depressed.

“Most employees (83 percent) and executives (74 percent) say they’re facing obstacles when it comes to achieving their well-being goals—and these are largely tied to their job,” the report says. “In fact, the top two hurdles that people cited were a heavy workload or stressful job (30 percent), and not having enough time because of long work hours (27 percent).”

While 70 percent of C-suite execs admitted to considering quitting, this number was at only 57 percent among other employees. The report speculated that a reason for such a wide gap might be the fact that top-level executives are often in a “stronger financial position,” due to which they can afford to seek new career opportunities.

Interestingly, while only 56 percent of employees think their company executives care about their well-being, a much higher 91 percent of C-suite administrators were of the opinion that their employees believe their leaders took care of them. The report called this a “notable gap.”

Resignation Rates

The Deloitte report comes amid a debate about resignation rates in the U.S. workforce. Over 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in April, with job openings hitting 11.9 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In the period from January 2021 to February 2022, almost 57 million Americans left their jobs.

Though some are terming it the “Great Resignation,” giving it a negative connotation, the implication is not entirely true since most of those who quit jobs did so for other opportunities. In the same 14 months, almost 89 million people were hired. There are almost two jobs open for every unemployed person in the United States, according to MarketWatch.

In an Economic Letter from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco published in April, economics professor Bart Hobijn points out that high waves of resignations were common during rapid economic recoveries in the postwar period prior to 2000.

“The quits waves in manufacturing in 1948, 1951, 1953, 1966, 1969, and 1973 are of the same order of magnitude as the current wave,” he wrote. “All of these waves coincide with periods when payroll employment grew very fast, both in the manufacturing sector and the total nonfarm sector.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/25/2022 - 20:30

Read More

Continue Reading

Government

Doctors’ Group Urges Biden Administration To End Quarantine, Vaccine Recommendations For Children

Doctors’ Group Urges Biden Administration To End Quarantine, Vaccine Recommendations For Children

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch…

Published

on

Doctors' Group Urges Biden Administration To End Quarantine, Vaccine Recommendations For Children

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A group of doctors is urging top government officials to quickly reverse recommendations that have left children in isolation for days and advice that virtually every child get a COVID-19 vaccine.

We strongly urge you to revise the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines with regards to testing, isolation, and vaccine recommendations for children to ensure that public health policies are not doing more harm than good,” the group, Urgency of Normal, wrote in a June 21 open letter to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks in Washington on June 16, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The CDC’s guidelines say that people, including children, who are exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine for at least five days, and encourage widespread COVID-19 testing.

The agency also recommends that all children 6 months of age or older get a COVID-19 vaccine, following the recent authorization of the Moderna and Pfizer shots for kids under 5.

The doctors noted that many European countries, U.S. states, and other areas have updated COVID-19 policies to greatly reduce periods of quarantine, COVID-19 testing frequency, and forced vaccination.

They’re asking U.S. officials to adapt to a “test-to-treat” approach, which would focus on recommending vaccination and treatments to those at the highest risk from COVID-19, which are primarily the elderly and others with serious underlying health conditions.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/25/2022 - 17:30

Read More

Continue Reading

Spread & Containment

This Week in Apps: Twitter Notes, Instagram age verification, Spotify’s Live Events

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy….

Published

on

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. Global spending across iOS, Google Play and third-party Android app stores in China grew 19% in 2021 to reach $170 billion. Downloads of apps also grew by 5%, reaching 230 billion in 2021, and mobile ad spend grew 23% year over year to reach $295 billion.

Today’s consumers now spend more time in apps than ever before — even topping the time they spend watching TV, in some cases. The average American watches 3.1 hours of TV per day, for example, but in 2021, they spent 4.1 hours on their mobile device. And they’re not even the world’s heaviest mobile users. In markets like Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea, users surpassed five hours per day in mobile apps in 2021.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours, either. They can grow to become huge businesses. In 2021, 233 apps and games generated over $100 million in consumer spend and 13 topped $1 billion in revenue. This was up 20% from 2020, when 193 apps and games topped $100 million in annual consumer spend and just eight apps topped $1 billion.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions and suggestions about new apps to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Instagram to verify users’ ages in new test

Image Credits: Instagram

Instagram announced this week it’s testing a new set of features for verifying users’ ages in the app, including things like video selfies, vouching from adult friends and providing an ID. The tests, which will begin in the U.S., will apply to users who try to change their age to 18 or over after being previously set to under 18. These users may be trying to correct an earlier mistake or they could be teens trying to circumvent the app’s newer age-appropriate restrictions.

If users are prompted to provide an ID card, like a passport or driver’s license, Meta will store it on its servers for 30 days before deletion. If users choose the social vouching option, they’ll need at least three other adult friends to vouch for their age — and Instagram will choose a list of six people randomly who meet the criteria. Those users can’t have a new account or be vouching for others at the same time.

The company also said it’s using AI that can estimate users’ ages in video selfies. The company is working with the London-based digital identify firm Yoti which will examine the file, make an estimate, then delete the file.

Age verification is an increasingly common feature in social apps used by younger users as a result of tighter regulations. Another company catering to Gen Z users, Yubo, recently rolled out its own age estimating tech as well.

Twitter goes long form

TechCrunch broke the news that Twitter was testing a long-form writing feature called Twitter Notes. The next day after our report went live, Twitter announced it officially.

The news is one of Twitter’s more significant changes since doubling the character count from 140 to 280 characters, as it will allow users to write on Twitter directly, as if it’s a blogging platform. With Twitter Notes, users are able to create articles using rich formatting and uploaded media, which can then be tweeted and shared with followers upon publishing. The company also said it would merge its newsletter service, Revue, into Twitter Notes.

Users with access can create Twitter Notes from the “Write” link in Twitter’s navigation. For the time being, Twitter is testing Notes with a small group of writers in the United States, Canada, Ghana and the United Kingdom. The Notes can be up to 2,500 words in length.

The feature could encourage users to rely on Twitter Thread (tweetstorms) less in order to share their longer thoughts, ideas or stories with their Twitter followers, Community or Circle. It could also put an end to using a screenshot from the Notes app to tweet something longer than 280 characters. Meanwhile, Twitter Notes can tap into the potential for viral distribution that comes with posting to the platform. Like tweets, the Notes would have their own link and could be tweeted, retweeted, sent in DMs, liked and bookmarked. They can also be reported and must comply with Twitter’s rules.

It’s worth noting (ha!) that Twitter Notes also gives the company a new business and potential revenue stream as it further develops the product. The feature may allow the social platform to compete with established services, like Medium for blogging, or Substack’s newsletters.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

E-commerce

Image Credits: Twitter/Shopify

  • As part of its ongoing efforts to expand into e-commerce, Twitter announced a new partnership with Shopify. The deal will see Twitter launching a sales channel app that will be made available to all of Shopify’s U.S. merchants through its app store. The app allows merchants to onboard themselves to Twitter’s Shopping Manager, the dashboard offered by the social media company where sellers can access product catalog tools and enable other shopping features for their profiles. Merchants will be able to use the new sales channel app to connect their Twitter account to their Shopify admin then get set up with Twitter’s Shopping Manager and other free tools Twitter built for “Professionals.” This includes Twitter’s launch of a new feature called Location Spotlight, which allows local businesses in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia to display information like their street address, contact info and operating hours directly on their profile.

Augmented Reality

  • Walmart gave its app an AR upgrade with the launch of View in Your Space, which allows customers to see home décor and furniture in their own homes. The feature will be rolled out to over 300 items on Walmart’s iOS app by early July.
  • Tim Cook may have hinted at Apple’s AR headset plans when he told a Chinese state-run news outlet to “stay tuned” to see what Apple had in store next for AR in an interview. A later investor note by Ming-Chi Kuo also suggested the new hardware could arrive as soon as early 2023.
  • IKEA launched a new in-app design experience, called IKEA Kreativ, that lets U.S. shoppers visualize furniture in their own spaces using AR and AI. The feature can also remove the existing furniture from your room so you can better imagine the changes.
  • Snap shared some data about AR shopping trends, noting that there was a 32% increased use of shoppable AR during the pandemic and that 69% of consumers believed AR was a part of shopping’s future.

Fintech

  • Coinbase is shutting down its standalone Pro service by year’s end and replacing it with Advanced Trade across its website and app. The latter offers comparable features to the Pro service, which had lowered fees to traders who interacted directly with the Coinbase Exchange order book.
  • Facebook Pay formally rebranded to Meta Pay. The change had already been announced but is now rolling out in the U.S. before expanding globally.

Social

Image Credits: Twitter

  • Snapchat announced its first accelerator program for emerging Black creators, which will see 25 selected participants receive $10,000 per month to launch their careers across a total $3 million investment.
  • Instagram has been experimenting with a new feature that would allow users to leave notes for their friends at the top of the DM inbox. The feature could help users share urgent or more important messages that could be overlooked in Stories or in messages.
  • Meta announced more ways for creators to make money on Facebook and Instagram and the expansion of other monetization tools to more creators. The company will keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges and its upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2024, instead of 2023, as it had said before. Meta is also testing a designated place on Instagram where creators can get discovered by brands for partnerships; will launch a way for users to subscribe to Facebook Groups even for those who have paid for access on another platform; and is expanding the Reels Play Bonus program to more creators and making Facebook Stars available to all.
  • Twitter announced the return of its developer conference, Chirp. The event was first held in 2010 but was then canceled the next year. At the time, the event had been a reflection of Twitter’s attitude toward its developer community in general — disorganized and constantly in flux as the company’s business initiatives changed. Times have since changed and Twitter has been trying to woo back developers with its new API, even by promoting some apps on Twitter itself.

Messaging

  • Telegram said it now has over 700 monthly active users and announced Telegram Premium, a subscription that gives users access to exclusive features like doubled limits, 4 GB file uploads, faster downloads, exclusive stickers and reactions, improved chat management and more.

Photos

Dating

  • Match-owned Hinge added a new feature that allows users to share their “Dating Intentions” — meaning whether they’re looking for long-term, short-term, open relationships and more. The update changes Hinge’s focus as the company has historically been the app designed to connect people looking for more serious relationships, while Match-owned Tinder was aimed at those seeking casual encounters.

Streaming & Entertainment

Image Credits: Spotify

  • Spotify revamped its concert discovery feature with the launch of a new Live Events Feed. The personalized feature will allow users to find favorite artists’ events in your area and will now include artist imagery and more tour details. Local events will also be highlighted while streaming and soon, in other places in the Spotify app.
  • Clubhouse is testing a new feature called Houses, per Bloomberg, which are private rooms aimed at encouraging social interactions where anyone can unmute themselves and speak.
  • Reddit Talk, the company’s live audio Clubhouse-like feature, announced its Host program would launch on July 11th. The program will promote hosts’ audio across the site. Reddit Talk also gained new features like a soundboard and topic selector for discovery purposes.
  • Apple Music raised the price of its student plan in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In the United States and Canada, the price for the plan has increased from $4.99 to $5.99. In the United Kingdom, the price has increased from £4.99 to £5.99.

Gaming

  • Epic Games has come up with a new system for game ratings. While these changes apply to its own online games store, it’s an example of why alternative app stores could be useful to provide competition with Apple’s own — they can be a ground to test out new ideas. In Epic’s case, random players who have played a game for over two hours will be asked to rate the game on a five-point scale. Over time, these will create the game’s Overall Rating. The system, which relies on random sampling, could cut down on review bombing and reviews left by those who aren’t actual players, the company notes.
  • China’s regulation of the mobile gaming market may be leading to declining use of the App Store in the country, according to Morgan Stanley. The firm’s latest analysis estimated that the App Store only saw 1% growth in June so far, compared with 6% growth in May.

Health & Fitness

  • Fitbit added a new premium feature, “Sleep Profile,” which will allow users to track their sleep patterns across 10 key metrics, including new data points like bedtime consistency, the time before sound sleep and disrupted sleep. The feature is rolling out to the Fitbit app’s Premium users and supports devices including Sense, Versa 3, Versa 2, Charge 5, Luxe or Inspire 2.

Travel & Transportation

  • Apple is planning to expand its CarPlay experience to China, according to a job posting.
  • Polestar has now added Apple CarPlay to its all-electric Polestar 2 sedan via an over-the-air software update, after previously only supporting Android Auto.
  • Car rental apps saw their MAUs grow 19% year-over-year in the U.S. in May, reported Apptopia, despite rising gas prices.

Image Credits: Apptopia

Government & Policy

  • TikTok offered a series of commitments in the EU to improve user reporting and disclosure requirements around ads/sponsored content as well as an agreement to boost transparency around its digital coins and virtual gifts. The agreement follows a series of complaints over child safety and consumer protection complaints filed back in February 2021.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice today entered into an agreement with Meta to resolve a lawsuit that alleged Meta engaged in discriminatory advertising in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As a result, Meta has agreed to develop a new system for housing ads and will pay a roughly $115,000 penalty, the maximum under the FHA.

Reading & News

  • India-based VerSe Innovation rolled out its news aggregator Dailyhunt in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, with over 5,000 content partners in the region.

Security & Privacy

  • Google Chrome for iOS gained a number of new features in a recent update, including access to Enhanced Safe Browsing to protect users from dangerous websites and malware, as well as the ability to make Google Password Manager your Autofill provider. Other additions include Chrome Actions (typed commands in the URL bar) and access to Google’s Discover feed on the main page.
  • Daycare apps including those from Brightwheel, HiMama and others were found to lack 2FA and other privacy protections, in an analysis.
  • Google threat researchers detailed a commercial spyware system called Hermit, used in Kazakhstan and Italy, which targeted both Android and iOS. The iOS version had six exploits, including two zero-days. Targeted victims are tricked into installing a malicious app — which masquerades as a legitimate branded telco or messaging app — from outside the app store.

Funding and M&A

Courier raised $35 million in a Series B funding round led by GV. The company provides an API for sending notifications across multiple channels, including email, text, web and mobile.

Ghana-based fintech Fido raised $30 million in equity investment and some undisclosed debt funding in a Series A round led by Israel-based private equity fund Fortissimo Capital. The round brings the total equity investment raised to date to $38 million. The startup says it’s adding savings and payment products to its portfolio later this year and will enter Uganda.

Twitter asked its shareholders to approve the $44 billion Elon Musk acquisition. At the time of its SEC filing, Twitter’s share price was around $38.12 — lower than Musk’s offer price of $54.20 a share. The company’s market cap had also dropped below $30 billion, making a $44 billion deal look very good.

Downloads

WatchTube

Image Credits: WatchTube

Well, here’s something kind of crazy: 9to5Mac this week highlighted the new app WatchTube, which lets you watch YouTube videos directly on your Apple Watch. Yes, really!

The app is not the best experience for watching videos, as you may have guessed, but it is pretty wild that it actually works. The app by default shows you top trending videos, but you can customize this so the videos that appear are selected from a particular genre, like Music, News, Gaming, Movies and more. While it would be enough to just accomplish bringing YouTube to the Watch, the developer also added other features like the ability to search for videos, save videos to the app’s local Library and subscribe to Channels. When you get back to your other devices, you can also scan a QR code to share the video back to your iPhone or iPad.

Read More

Continue Reading

Trending