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Home-Testing COVID-19 Kits Are Actually Coming. What to Know

The FDA approved a LabCorp test that allows people to swab themselves and mail the test to a diagnostics center.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had approved the first at-home test for COVID-19. The testing kit, Pixel by LabCorp, is stated to be as safe and accurate as tests that can be obtained at a doctor’s office or at the hospital. Patients can get the test and swab their own nose, and mail back the test to LabCorp.

(You can look for your local LabCorp location here.)

The United States is not the first country in the world to start utilizing at-home testing. About a month ago, the United Kingdom announced that it had purchased 3.5 million at-home testing kits that will be distributed through Amazon and pharmacies across the country. EverlyWell, an Austin-based company that has a number of at-home medical tests for conditions like Lyme disease and chlamydia, also introduced their own, $135 testing kit that has not yet been approved by the FDA. 

When Will It Be Available?

The test will be available in the coming weeks to consumers in most states, and will first be made available to health care workers and emergency workers who have been exposed to the virus or someone with the virus or might be experiencing some symptoms. 

Will It Be Free? 

The test will cost $119 for consumers. LabCorp says that people who buy the test will have to ask their insurer for reimbursement. It’s unclear whether the tests will be fully reimbursable. The Trump administration previously stated that all tests for COVID-19 would be covered and that consumers and patients won’t have to pay for the tests, but it’s unclear what considerable moves the Trump administration has made to make that possible. 

Are There Any Problems With the Test?

The expansion of at-home testing could make getting tested safer for Americans across the country. It could also lessen the demand and need for masks in hospitals, as those who suspect they might have COVID-19 don’t have to leave their house and potentially infect others or health care workers to get tested.

The new test roll-out will also make more testing more available to Americans — which is much needed amid mass testing shortages that haven’t been resolved despite the great length of time this pandemic has unfolded. 

It should also be noted that the U.K. had a huge scandal in March with home testing kits for COVID-19 and several of those kits were contaminated and totally inaccurate. So there’s a very good reason to be skeptical of those home-testing kits.

But, other experts say that the at-home test can be less accurate than the nasal swab test and may produce more false negatives than the tests done in the hospital or at the doctor’s office. Plus, the test results could take longer to come back in an at-home testing situation than it does at the hospital.