These days news travels fast so you may already know the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first “At-home COVID-19 test.” That’s good news! Now instead of waiting for hours at a drive-thru testing site or trying to get an appointment with a lab, you can test yourself and have the results in 15-30 minutes. WOW!

The test is called the “Lucira COVID-19 All-in-One Test Kit.” It’s available currently by prescription only and won’t be distributed nationwide until early next Spring. Lucira is a 7-year old bio-tech company in Emeryville, California. The cost is estimated to be around $50.00. My guess is that’s a low-ball figure, and it will really cost more in the realm of the $128.30 ($119 for the test plus a $9.30 physician fee) charged by Quest (Sonora Quest in AZ) laboratories. So it won’t be cheap. And you won’t be inclined to do one every week.

The “kit” contains a swab, a battery-powered test unit, and a vial containing a test solution. The patient places the test vial in the test unit. He then swabs his nose, places the swab in the vial, presses the vial into the test unit, activates the unit, and waits 30 minutes for the results. A red light means a negative result and a green light a positive.

Lucira claims positive results are 94.1% correct when compared to other more elaborate testing methods used by labs. A negative test is accurate 98% of the time. So if you’re negative it’s overwhelmingly certain you are not infected while 5.9% of the time your positive test could be inaccurate. So convenience and reliability are pluses, but cost is a slight deterrent.

You can buy this test from Quest laboratories for $119 plus. You can do the nasal swabbing on your own or you can make an appointment at a drive-thru center where “trained healthcare professionals” will observe if you use the swab properly. If you choose that option, the test center runs the test for you, and results take 24-48 hours. That seems to defeat any benefit of the at-home rapid results.

Having this test available will give many folks peace of mind. If you’re anxious about being in public, you can test yourself to be certain you won’t be passing COVID-19 on to others, AND you can be reassured that guy who came too close to you at the grocery didn’t infect you.

Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a “rapid antigen test” for use in “low-and middle income countries.” The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Abbott Laboratories, SD Biosensor, the WHO Global Fund, and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have begun testing in 20 African countries. These tests are available at a cost of less than $5 each. Results from these tests are available in 15-30 minutes and should help “governments reopen and reduce staggering economic losses.”

It’s remarkable to me how the impact of COVID-19 has motivated new drug innovators, biotechnology companies, federal and local health agencies, and philanthropic organizations to develop drugs, vaccines, and preventive treatments and tests at record speed. Our world is blessed with brilliant scientists and entrepreneurs who have the knowledge and resources to accomplish what previous generations took decades to achieve. The economic and social disruptions COVID has caused have been so consequential that little motivation was needed.

The development of rapid-results, point-of-care testing, preventive vaccines, and specific therapeutic methods have been given priority over less life-saving innovations. That is only right because of the incredible anxiety and economic devastation COVID-19 has caused. Since it appears preventive measures (lockdowns, masks, social isolation, and quarantining) are terribly unpopular, the only reassuring course of action is to do everything conceivable not to just avoid the virus, but to eradicate it by whatever means possible. I do hope vaccines, remdesivir, and other yet-to-come treatments are the answer. Only time will tell.

Addendum: I wrote this blog the week of November 16th. Since then, the December issue of Costco Connection magazine arrived at my home. In the “Costco Life” section, a small blurb on “Getting tested at home” appeared. It’s actually an ad for a “saliva-based” test you do yourself. Your sample is sent to a lab and results reported “through a HIPAA-compliant AZOVA app within 48-72 hours of arrival at the lab.” The test can be purchased for $129.99 at They tout it as a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test which is “the gold standard testing method with the most accurate sensitivity and specificity currently on the market.” If you have a spare $130, have at it. It’s not a cheap item, but many people will do it anyway, ignoring the cost.



Partnership to make 120 million COVID-19 Rapid Tests Available JAMA 2020 Nov 17;324(19):1933.

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