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Are there “home tests” for Coronavirus?
As of July 22, 2020, there continues to be wider availability of at-home testing for COVID-19, however with the current surge, the tests turn around times have generally been longer than expected. Each of these tests looks for ACTIVE disease by testing for viral RNA. As with any COVID-19 testing, it is crucial to remember that a negative test only means the virus was not detected at the time you collected the sample, but that you could have been exposed and were still in the early stages of infection when you took the test.
Each of these tests is authorized by the FDA under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), but they are NOT officially FDA-approved. The EUA only allows unapproved products to be used during the public health crisis. The FDA does provide recommendations for the test validation in its EUA policy, emphasizing that “false results can have broad public health impact,” but the exact accuracy of these tests is not known.
Pixel by Labcorp is a self-collected nasal swab. You will complete a short eligibility survey and then, if eligible, you can decide if you want to pay out of pocket ($119) or have it billed to your insurance. Patients must be over 18 years old and are typically eligible if they are mildly symptomatic or have had potential exposure. The kit will be shipped to you overnight. You will follow the instructions to register the kit and prepare a self-collected nasal swab, and then return the kit with the included shipping label. Results are currently taking 3-5 days from the time your sample is received at the lab. After receiving your results, you have the opportunity to speak to a licensed physician who can answer questions and help guide your next steps.
Everlywell also offers a self-collected nasal swab. You can be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, and must be over 18 years old. After an online screening, if eligible, you can choose overnight or within 3-day shipping to receive your kit. The test costs $109. You will then register your kit, collect your sample, and drop it off for overnight shipping to the lab. Samples cannot be returned over the weekend. Results are typically available within 72 hours after the lab receives the sample. If your results are positive, you will have an included telehealth consult to guide you through next steps.
Vault has a saliva test available for people over and under 18 years old (kids as young as 4 seem to be able to cooperate with instructions to collect enough saliva). You will need a unique email address for each person taking the test and can order the test easily for $150 (out of pocket, but HSA and FSA funds accepted). When you are ready to use the test (it is shelf-stable for 2 years), you have to log in through their website to have a Zoom session with a test supervisor. The test supervisor has to guide you in collecting your specimen for it to be valid. There’s no appointment needed, but a test supervisor has to be available. The availability of the test supervisors is Sun – Thurs between 11 am – 9 pm PST, and Fri – Sat between 11 AM – 7 pm PST. The kit must then be dropped off for overnight shipping. There is currently no known sensitivity or specificity for this test. Test results are available within 48-72 hours after it arrives at the lab.
hims&hers also offers a saliva test, but only for symptomatic individuals after a medical consultation to determine if you are eligible. If you are eligible, the cost is $150. It is a self-collected saliva sample that can be collected at any time, but must be sent back within 24 hours of collection. They report that the time to results is 3-5 days from the time the sample is shipped to the lab.