Testing is increasing for the coronavirus, but it’s still not all that easy to get one.
If you suspect you have contracted COVID-19 and want to be tested, the first step is to call a doctor or your state health department to determine your eligibility. If you are qualified, a health care professional will then write up an authorization to get you a test, which may involve visiting special sections of a hospital or a clinic or, in some places, a drive-through testing station.
The test itself be quite uncomfortable, too. The CDC recommends a called sample collection procedure called nasopharyngeal swab, which involves a health care technician shoving a 6-inch cotton swab deep into your nasal cavity and move it around for about 15 seconds.
Thankfully, there are now more convenient and less invasive ways to get tested—without having to leave your house. You may have already seen such advertisements as “at-home” COVID-19 tests here and there on the internet. Some of them even claim to be FDA- or physician-approved.
Most of them are bogus. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized only three COVID-19 test kits that can be used at home (out of 78 emergency use authorizations issued for various test devices since February), Observer has confirmed. The three approved tests are LabCorp’s Pixel kit, Rutgers University’s RUCDR Infinite Biologics and a kit made by Austin, Texas-based startup Everlywell.
None of them is at-home tests per se; they merely allow patients to self-collect viral samples at home, which still need to be sent to a lab for the actual test.
LabCorp’s Pixel, a self-swab kit authorized by the FDA in April, is available for $119 on the company’s website with a doctor’s order. Patients will have to pay out of pocket for the test first and then ask their insurers for reimbursement.
Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics, made by Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory, is a saliva test. Similar to consumer-grade DNA test kits, all you need to do is spit into a vial and mail it to a lab.
The Rutgers kit received FDA’s emergency use authorization on May 7. It’s now available for purchase (with a doctor’s order) through two companies: Hims & Hers, a site known for selling sexual wellness products, and Vault Health, a men’s health and telemedicine startup. Both sites sell the kit for $150, with different breakdown of lab fees, shipping and consultation costs.
Everlywell’s kit, also a nasal swab test, received FDA’s emergency clearance on Saturday. To purchase, patients will first take an eligibility questionnaire, which will be reviewed by health care providers affiliated with PWNHealth, Everlywell’s telemedicine partner. If a customer is determined as qualified for the test, a kit will be shipped out immediately. The whole ordering process will take three to five days, a company spokesperson told The New York Times.
Everlywell kits will be available online for $135 later this month.