Are COVID-19 tests that are labeled "positive control swab" and "negative control swab" manipulated to deliver predetermined results? No, that's not true: The SARS-CoV-2 test packaging shown in a photograph on social media are included in the kits for quality control and not used for patients, per the instructions in the kits.
The claim appeared as an Instagram post on January 4, 2022. It opened:
Picture taken secretly by a nurse on shift. Name not mentioned for obvious reasons.
The positive and negative control swabs are not proof that there is a "fix" for results of COVID tests.
The image shows two packages from ACON Laboratories, Inc. for "SARS-CoV-2 Antigen" tests with one label reading, "Positive Control Swab," and the other reading, "Negative Control Swab." ACON Laboratories, in San Diego, sells multiple COVID tests. The one in the image is an antigen rapid test named "Flowflex" that was released in December 2020 and marketed for professional use, not as an at-home rapid test.
The package insert for the tests states: "A rapid test for the qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid antigens in nasal swab specimens. For professional in vitro diagnostic use only":
(Image source: Flowflex package insert screenshot taken on Fri Jan 07 19:40:23 2022 UTC)
The package insert explains why there are positive and negative control swabs in the tests:
Internal procedural controls are included in the test. A colored line appearing in the control line region (C) is an internal procedural control. It confirms sufficient specimen volume and correct procedural technique. Positive and Negative control swabs are supplied with each kit. These control swabs should be used to ensure that the test cassette and that the test procedure is performed correctly. Follow the "DIRECTIONS FOR USE" section to perform the control test. The control swabs can be tested under any of the following circumstances:
1. When new lot of tests are used and/or when a new operator performs the test.
2. At periodic intervals as dictated by local requirements, and/or by the user's Quality Control procedures.
(Image source: Flowflex package insert screenshot taken on Fri Jan 07 19:44:23 2022 UTC)