Thursday, December 3, 2020
Health

Everything We Know About the Rapid At-Home COVID-19 Tests

Everything We Know About the Rapid At-Home COVID-19 Tests
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Just as lines for COVID-19 tests increase across the country, the FDA has authorized the first rapid at-home COVID-19 test.

This all-in-one COVID-19 test kit, developed by California-based company Lucira Health, is designed for people over the age of 14, and can provide results in 30 minutes or less. The single-use, molecular testing kits include the testing device (which requires two AA batteries), swab, vial, and instructions.

But for most of us, the process of going out of the house for a test isn’t over just yet. Here’s what to know about this new product.

How do rapid at-home tests work?

You do the swabbing of your nose yourself, in your own home. You rotate the swab in each nostril five times, swirl the sample in the vial, and then place it in the test unit. After about 30 minutes, the results will appear on the kit’s light-up display.

“While COVID-19 diagnostic tests have been authorized for at-home collection, this is the first that can be fully self-administered and provide results at home,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., in a statement. “This new testing option is an important diagnostic advancement to address the pandemic and reduce the public burden of disease transmission.”

Those who receive positive test results are urged to self-quarantine and contact their health care provider. Those who receive negative results but still experience COVID-like symptoms should still contact their health care provider to determine next steps, if any. The FDA warns that a negative result doesn’t preclude you from being infected with the virus.

The benefits and downfalls of rapid at-home tests

With at-home tests, you will be able to take immediate action if you test positive in order to keep yourself and others safe. That means there’s no waiting around between the time of the test and the time of the result; you can stay home and not risk passing the virus on.

According to Lucira Health, the testing kits have a 94 percent chance of detecting positive cases and 98 percent chance of detecting negative cases. After excluding samples with low levels of the virus that could no longer reflect infection, the company’s test showed 100 percent positive percent agreement.

However, Saskia Popescu, George Mason University epidemiologist, warns in The New York Times that no test is perfect, and if you have a negative test, that does not give you a pass to avoid mask and social distancing guidelines. Patrick Godbey, MD, president of the College of American Pathologists, expressed concern in USA Today that the test won’t have a large impact right away because it will take time to distribute the kits nationwide.

The test has also not been tested in asymptomatic people—a group believed to widely contribute to the spread of the virus.

When and where can you get rapid at-home tests?

It might be a while. Tests are now limited to patients at Sutter Health in California and Cleveland Clinic in Florida. They’re only available by prescription, and only to people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. As manufacturing expands, Lucira hopes the at-home test will be available across the country by spring 2021, and anticipates the cost to be about $50.

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