Rapid COVID Testing Coming To Airport Near You, XpresCheck Test Could Boost Air Travel

KEY POINTS

  • XpresCheck rapid COVID tests began at JFK and Liberty airports Wednesday
  • The company hopes to expand nationwide
  • The test delivers results in 13 minutes

The airline industry, devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, is about to get a boost: Health and wellness company XpresSpa Group Inc. began conducting rapid COVID-19 testing at Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey, with plans to expand the program nationwide.

With the pandemic still raging across the United States, Americans have been reluctant to get on airplanes, with the total number of passengers averaging about 25% of last year’s levels.

More than 7.5 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus and more than 211,000 have died from COVID-19.

Though the virus doesn’t spread easily on flights because of air circulation systems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns exposure to people in close quarters and frequently touched services put travelers at increased risk. The CDC estimated last month 11,000 people potentially had been exposed to the virus on flights.

XpresSpa began performing its ExpresCheck rapid COVID-19 tests Wednesday, expanding its polymerase chain reaction and blood antibody testing programs.

“We believe rapid COVID-19 testing at airports can play a major role in slowing the virus spread and decreasing the risk of new community outbreaks linked to travel as cases continue to rise throughout many states,” XpresSpa CEO Doug Satzman said in a press release.

He added: “Having a rapid test inside the airport immediately upon travel could also eliminate the need for a full 14-day quarantine in states where that applies.”

The tests would be voluntary for both travelers and airport workers. The company currently is focusing on airline employees and those who are showing COVID-like symptoms.

The test uses Abbott’s portable rapid molecular ID Now COVID test, which delivers results in 13 minutes. The test, however, has yet to gain full Food and Drug Administration approval although it has been cleared for emergency use, and has been criticized for false negatives, which are possible until an infection has reached its height and depending on how the test is performed.

Even with rapid COVID-19 tests available, travelers would still need to wear masks and practice social distancing.

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Tampa International Airport 1st To Offer Coronavirus Testing

TAMPA, FL — Tampa International Airport will soon offer coronavirus testing for arriving and departing passengers, announced airport officials Monday morning.

TPA is the first airport in the country to do so.

TPA is partnering with BayCare Health System to provide the tests. There will be two types of FDA-approved tests offered – the swab and rapid antigen. The antigen test, which produces results in 15 minutes and is most accurate within five days of the onset of symptoms, offers an added layer of same-day reassurance for travelers arriving at or departing TPA.

“We think this is going to be a very successful trial,” said the TPA CEO Joe Lopano. “This is just a test but if it’s successful, and we think it will be, we’ll continue it and we’ll grow it and we’ll build it into something more.”

The testing is voluntary.

As part of an initial trial period, according to TPA, tests will be administered from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31 in the main terminal. They will be offered seven days a week on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

All ticketed passengers who are flying, or can prove they’ve flown within the prior three days, are eligible.

The testing site, located inside the Main Terminal near the Airside F shuttle, will offer both the rapid antigen test and Polymerase Chain Reaction test.

PCR nasal swab test results are the most accurate and broadly accepted internationally. Interested travelers will be able to purchase either test regardless of which airline they’re booked on, their gate location or destination.

The PCR COVID-19 test costs $125 and the antigen test costs $57.

“We’re going to build confidence on behalf of the traveling public by giving them an opportunity to have a test done right here at the airport before they get on a flight,” Lopano said. “This is the only airport in the whole country that is doing these tests. We hope others will follow. Testing is the key to getting people back to travel.”

The testing will be offered in the main terminal on a walk-in basis starting Oct. 1.

“I believe this is going to allow people to travel to see loved ones,” said Baycare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nishant Anand. “It’s going to allow other passengers to feel safe if they’re traveling. It’s going to allow them to know that people around them have had some sort of screening test done.”

At many destinations around the world, government health agencies are requiring travelers to provide a negative PCR test result to avoid quarantine or other restrictions upon arrival.

Passengers departing from Tampa to states, countries or territories requiring negative PCR tests are advised to take the test three days before departure and can expect results within 48 hours. The antigen test, which produces results in 15 minutes and is most accurate within five days of the onset of symptoms, offers an added layer of same-day reassurance for travelers arriving at or departing TPA.