What test should I get? PCR or Binaxnow?

The Mills Administration recently announced it will distribute 400,000 rapid antigen tests (Binaxnow), including 300,000 provided to 65 Walgreens pharmacy locations from Kittery to Madawaska. Testing is available to the public at no charge as a drive-through service. People can find COVID-19 testing sites near them via the website https://get-tested-covid19.org/.

Here is a general overview table comparing the PCR test that we are familiar with, with this new rapid antigen test (Binaxnow). These tests will be another tool for us to monitor and contain the virus, but there are some important differences to be aware of. 

Type of Test:Specimen collection or how test deliveredWait for Results:Recommended for:Accuracy of Results:
PCR(Viral RNA)Administered or self-test with nasal swabHours to days depending on lab availabilityThose with symptoms or no symptoms (see Note below)Highly accurate for positive and negative results (see Note below)
Binaxnow (Viral antigen)Self-test with nasal swab10-15 min for resultsThose with symptoms or contacts of casesNegative results are highly accurate, but positive results are less accurate; a person with a positive result should be retested with PCR to confirm.

Note: The PCR test is not recommended for people recovering from COVID-19 because the body excretes viral fragments for some time after the illness.  The PCR test will detect these fragments and read as a positive test even though they are not communicable. Thus, the US and Maine CDC do not recommend retesting with PCR testing for people recovering from COVID-19. 

Here is a US CDC link about this


Maine governor has “standing orders” about testing and who is recommended for testing.