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What You Need to Know About Costco's At-Home COVID-19 Testing Kits

Older woman swabbing her mouth with an oral swab test at home.

Phynart Studio/Getty

Key Takeaways

  • Costco is selling at-home saliva tests for COVID-19. Currently, the kits are only available online.
  • Medical experts are excited about more testing options, but say that the tests come with caveats, including the possibility of user error. 
  • If you are having symptoms of COVID-19, skip the at-home test. Instead, see a medical professional for assessment and testing.

Retailer Costco is now offering at-home testing for COVID-19. Currently, the saliva tests are only available online at Costco's website.

According to Costco’s website, customers can choose from two kits: the COVID-19 Saliva PCR Test Kit with Video Observation at $139.99, or the COVID-19 Saliva PCR Test Kit, for $129.99. Neither test is available in Pennsylvania, Nevada, or Maryland.

Jyotsna Shah, PhD, president of IGeneX, Inc., a Bay Area laboratory providing COVID-19 testing for hospitals, employers, and airline travelers, weighed in on the new at-home testing. Shah says she is encouraged to see more testing available at retailers like Costco.

“It’s great to see retailers that we visit regularly providing access to COVID-19 testing,” Shah says. “Especially saliva-based tests, which are easier to collect than a nasal swab and likely just as accurate.”

Results from Costco’s test will be available within 24 to 48 hours from the time the lab receives your kit if you live in the United States. Once your results are in, you can view them online through a HIPAA-secure app.

But Sha also points out some drawbacks to these at-home tests, like the possibility for error when carrying out the test yourself, and a lack of guidance if you receive positive results.

Are At-Home Tests Accurate?

Costco and the other retailers currently offering at-home COVID-19 tests are relying on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which use genetic material from a swab of your nose and mouth to look for COVID-19.

According to Costco’s website, “PCR tests are the gold standard testing method with the most accurate sensitivity and specificity currently on the market.”

Is that actually true? According to a study released by Stanford researchers in June, self-swabbing tests for COVID-19 are accurate and safe.

“Test samples collected by people who swabbed their own nasal passages yielded results for the COVID-19 virus that were as accurate as samples collected by a health care worker,” noted the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Shah says it’s important to consider that there is room for error—whether it be on the part of the user or the lab that processes the results. “Customers need to understand that these tests are not done exclusively at home," Shah says.

Instead, a sample collected at home must still be sent back to a lab for processing, which means that most customers won’t know which lab is processing the test, or its reputation. Shah adds that at-home testing might prove to be inaccurate because it is being performed without oversight by a medical professional.

Jyotsna Shah, PhD

Using an at-home test in its current form may provide peace of mind for anxious patients, but after the result is provided, the patients are largely left on their own.

— Jyotsna Shah, PhD

Costco’s tests aren’t the only ones on the market: Everlywell, Vault, and hims & hers have also developed at-home options for testing for COVID-19.

When to See Your Doctor

Ultimately, Shah recommends that those interested in a COVID-19 test work with a medical professional who can evaluate their symptoms, assess any exposure they may have had to at-risk individuals, and provide guidance throughout the testing process—including selecting which lab to work with and interpreting the results.

“Using an at-home test in its current form may provide peace of mind for anxious patients," Shah says." But after the result is provided, the patients are largely left on their own."

What This Means for You

At-home COVID tests like the one now available at Costo might be an option for some people who are concerned about whether they have the virus or need test results in order to travel. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has it, seek help from a medical professional. They will be able to guide you through the testing and treatment process, should your result be positive.

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Article Sources
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  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office of the Commissioner. Coronavirus testing basics. Updated July 16, 2020.

  2. Altamirano J, Govindarajan P, Blomkalns AL, Kushner LE, Stevens BA, Pinsky BA, et al. Assessment of sensitivity and specificity of patient-collected lower nasal specimens for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 testingJAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(6):e2012005.