A note from Million Marker: We are committed to the health of you and your family.
We will continue to provide information that will help protect you from toxic exposures. We will also provide information about the coronavirus. Million Marker will NOT be able to provide home testing for the virus. But we are gathering information about progress on this topic. As always, if you have any questions about the health of yourself and your family, feel free contact us so we can direct you to the best resources.
In a previous post we discussed the potential for at-home COVID-19 testing. Since then, a lot has changed. At-home testing is no longer just a possibility. It is a reality.
At-home testing is a powerful tool to fight this pandemic. It could increase testing rates, slow the virus’s spread, and protect healthcare workers.
Types of COVID-19 Tests
There are two main types of COVID-19 tests:
Viral test. This tells you if you have a current infection.
Antibody test. This tells you if you’ve had a previous infection. It is not known if a previous infection protects you against future infections.
Antibodies may take 1-3 weeks to develop after a person is infected. The antibody test does not tell you if you have a current infection.
When a viral or antibody test is performed, the sample is sent to a certified lab for testing. This is the case whether the sample is collected at home, a doctor’s office, or a COVID testing clinic. There are currently no options for testing and obtaining results fully at home.
Currently Available At-Home Viral Tests
It requires no upfront cost. This means LabCorp will file for your insurance or use federal funding to cover the test. You may also choose to pay out-of-pocket for $119.
To order the test, you must complete an eligibility survey. Once the test arrives, you perform your own nasal swabbing. You then return the sample and access results online.
Rutgers University developed the first at-home saliva test for COVID-19. It does not require an invasive nasal swab, so it may be preferred.
The kit is $150 and can be purchased here.
The Everlywell kit costs $109 at no profit to the company. It requires the user to perform a nasal swabbing.
The collected samples are sent to a variety of partner labs. This means that the results can be delivered faster and labs can avoid overflow.
Everlywell provides test kits but is not a laboratory. Thus, it cannot receive government funding to provide testing for free like LabCorp can. But the company announced it is working with Congress to overcome this limitation.
Currently Available At-Home Antibody Tests
Antibody tests provide less risk to health providers. This is because the patient does not have symptoms of an infection at the time of testing.
So far, no at-home antibody tests have been FDA approved. This is likely due to the controversy over the accuracy of antibody tests.
However, FDA approval is not required for research studies. In the middle of April, Scanwell started a 1,000 person study of an at-home antibody test. If this test or others prove effective, at-home antibody testing may become common practice.
What do the test results mean?
After you receive your results, you can speak with a licensed telehealth physician. This physician will answer any questions about your test results. They can help you determine next steps in care.
If your results are positive, you must limit your exposure to other people via self-quarantine. You should also monitor symptoms to determine if hospitalization is necessary.
If you test negative, you likely do not have the coronavirus. But there are some caveats:
Testing may not detect the virus in the early stages of infection
You might receive a false negative result. This can happen if the test was not collected properly
Follow up testing might still be necessary after testing negative. This is especially true if you came into close contact with someone who was infected. It is also recommended to assume you are positive and self-quarantine if you are displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
The results of the antibody test are less conclusive. If you test positive for antibodies, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are immune.
We don’t yet know whether the antibodies prevent a person from another infection. We also don’t know how long antibodies last in the body.
Testing positive does not even guarantee that you were previously infected with the disease.
The accuracy of antibody tests vary from test to test. Many give false positives and false negatives. Accuracy also increases with time from infection—if you get tested too soon after infection, you may receive a false negative.
The Future of At-Home COVID-19 Testing
The next innovation in home COVID-19 testing is in-home analysis. This means that you can test yourself and get your results right away, like a pregnancy test.
While this seems like a good thing, it could be harder to track positive cases with at-home results.
Currently, testing laboratories report positive cases to local, state, and federal governments. With at-home analysis, phone apps could provide the same anonymous reporting and tracking.
At-home COVID-19 testing has led to a surge in at-home medical diagnostics. People are starting to avoid doctor’s offices and hospitals. Telehealth and at-home diagnostic tests are filling those gaps.
The good news is that healthcare options and quality will continue to improve during this pandemic.
Continue to check our blogs for more updates about COVID-19 and at-home testing.