Quick-result COVID tests launch at Burlington International Airport; quarantines remain

A new rapid-result test site at Burlington International Airport might give arriving passengers an early warning of COVID-19 or flu infection, but not the option of instantly bypassing Vermont’s 14-day COVID-19 quarantine.

The new coronavirus- and flu-testing service for travelers and the general public officially opened Wednesday at a small building just north of BTV’s vehicular exit.

People arriving, departing — or just plain cautious — can secure “another level of comfort, another layer of potential protection,” said Director of Aviation Gene Richards at the facility’s launch.

Gene Richards, director of aviation at Burlington International Airport, takes a phone call outside a newly opened walk-up coronavirus- and flu-testing facility at BTV on Oct. 14, 2020.

“You’ll still need to quarantine,” Richards added, “You’ll still need to follow all the rules.”

Results of quick-result antigen tests at the site do not currently meet state standards for an early end to quarantine — which mandate a PCR test commonly administered through nasal swabs, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

Air travelers coming into Vermont can end quarantine if, after seven days without symptoms, they obtain negative results from a PCR test.

Garnet Health, a local clinical care and transport company will administer PCR tests at the airport site, in addition to rapid-tests for viruses: rapid antigen testing (Sofia SARS Antigen Fluorescent Immunoassay), and rapid influenza diagnostic tests (Flu A/B),with same-day results.

Gene Richards, director of aviation at Burlington International Airport, takes a coronavirus antigen test at a newly opened walk-up facility at BTV on Oct. 14, 2020. Julie King of Garnet Health (glove and wrist visible) administered the test.

Results from the state-approved PCR test are typically available after 24 to 36 hours.

Garnet’s co-founder and CEO, Ryan Ferris, said his company’s work complements that of state health officials, follows all Department of Health guidelines and produces “clinically accurate results.”

In the past 2,300 antigen tests administered by Garnet, just four have produced false positives — results that incorrectly indicate a person has been infected.

“False positives,” Ferris said, “can be viewed as being overly cautious.”

BTV’s Richards took his fifth antigen test Wednesday at the site for the benefit of a group of a reporters, as well, he said, as as an ongoing commitment to the health of his family and co-workers.

“About 3,300 people come in and out of the airport every week,:” he said. “If these tests discover one infected person, it’s a big deal — it can keep hundreds of other people from being infected.”

A newly opened walk-up coronavirus- and flu-testing facility at Burlington International Airport is seen Oct. 14, 2020.

Tests won’t replace common sense, Richards added: “If you’re not feeling well, don’t travel.”

The new, walk-up testing site is located at a small white building just north of BTV’s exit at Airport Drive and White Street.

Someone without medical insurance can be expected to pay $125 for an antigen test or $175 for a PCR test, Ferris said.

By law, positive results are forwarded to the Vermont Department of Health, he added, but are not shared with the airport.

Hours are currently 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday, and will be expanded later this year.

Scheduling an appointment is most easily done through the Garnet website.

An aerial view of the nearly empty terminal at Burlington International Airport on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or joelbaird@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.