What to Know About the At-Home Test for COVID-19

Home testing kits mark a new phase in COVID-19 diagnosis

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At this point, getting tested for COVID-19 remains a challenge. A limited number of tests and an effort to keep people out of doctors' offices to prevent transmission means that not everyone with COVID-19 will get a confirmed diagnosis. But what if testing could happen at home? 

On April 21, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 diagnostic test with a home-collection option: the Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test.

More Recent EUAs

  • On May 8, the FDA granted EUA to a second at-home collection option: a saliva sample kit by Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory.
  • On May 16, the FDA granted EUA to Everlywell, Inc. for its COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit, which uses a nasal swab.

The tests work similarly to at-home genetic testing kits like 23andMe. Users gather their own sample, mail it for analysis in a lab, and get their results online. 

With more at-home tests in development, here’s what we know so far. 

How Does the COVID-19 At-Home Test Work?

LabCorp’s at-home test—a newer iteration of its COVID-19 RT-PCR Test initially authorized by the FDA on March 16—includes nasal swabs and saline for a user to collect their own nasal sample. 

While the LabCorp swabs look a lot like Q-tips, users are instructed to only collect their samples with the included swabs, not Q-tips or similar products. This is because of concerns over sterility and cross-contamination.

The sample is then mailed to LabCorp in an insulated package, where it will be analyzed for current infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It does not test for antibodies that signal immunity. Results can be accessed online.

The Rutger's kit requires users to mail a tube of their saliva to the lab for processing.

How Can You Get An At-Home COVID-19 Test?

As of May 12, the LabCorp at-home collection test kit is available to anyone in the U.S. with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, as well as those without symptoms who may have been exposed to the virus. It can be purchased on the Pixel by LabCorp website for $119. 

Initially, the kit was only available for healthcare and emergency workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or were showing symptoms. 

Anyone interested in the LabCorp test will need to take an online survey about symptoms, location, and risk of exposure to help determine eligibility. 

The Rutger's saliva-based test is currently only available with a prescription.

Will Insurance Cover At-Home Testing? 

Yes, insurance plans will cover at-home testing. As of April 30, 2020, LabCorp can use your insurance info or federal funds to cover the upfront cost of their test at the time of purchase. Users can also pay for the $119 test out-of-pocket and ask their insurance company for reimbursement.

According to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6201) enacted on March 17, COVID-19 testing must be fully covered by employer-sponsored and individual health insurance plans. No deductible, copay, coinsurance, or prior authorization is required.

Is It Accurate?

The LapCorp at-home COVID-19 test relies on a nasal swab sampling, as opposed to the World Health Organization-recommended nasopharyngeal swab sampling, in part because nasal swabs are more widely available. Healthcare professionals obtain nasopharyngeal swab samples from the upper portion of the throat, behind the nasal cavity, using a much longer nasal swab.

Does this make the tests any less accurate? Only slightly, a small French study suggests. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, included 44 patients. Of the 37 who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 based on a nasopharyngeal swab sample, 33 also tested positive from a nasal swab sample. This means nasal swabs produced false-negative diagnoses in 4 patients, which the study authors suggest is good enough to “demonstrate that nasal sampling could be used to screen SARS-CoV-2 in times of nasopharyngeal swab shortage.”

A Word From Verywell

While at-home COVID-19 testing has the potential to expand testing to a wider population without having to go to a doctor's office or testing center, it is not a replacement for talking to your doctor. Be sure to communicate your symptoms with your healthcare provider, and seek medical attention if you experience more severe symptoms like trouble breathing, persistent chest pain, blue lips or face, or confusion.

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  1. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes First Test for Patient At-Home Sample Collection. April 21, 2020.

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes First Diagnostic Test Using At-Home Collection of Saliva Specimens. May 8, 2020.

  3. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes First Standalone At-Home Sample Collection Kit That Can Be Used With Certain Authorized Tests. May 16, 2020.

  4. Péré H, Podglajen I, Wack M, et al. Nasal swab sampling for SARS-CoV-2: A convenient alternative in time of nasopharyngeal swab shortage. J Clin Microbiol. 2020. doi:10.1128/JCM.00721-20

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of coronavirus. Updated March 20, 2020.