Residents of Los Angeles county continue to look for ways to protect themselves from COVID-19 after the post-holiday surge pushed L.A. passed the 1 million mark in confirmed cases. As vaccine distribution plans slowly emerge, many are looking to tests as a strategy to contain the virus. Today, we explore how in-home COVID-19 tests can help slow the spread of the disease.
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Why get tested for COVID-19?
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains here, testing is necessary to identify those with infections so they can avoid others, preventing them from infecting anyone else. If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or if you are sick yourself, following Los Angeles County Public Health department’s home isolation guidance helps reduce the risk of accidental transmission as much as possible.
If you work outside the home and live with others, or if you have a vulnerable person in your household or social bubble, regular testing can be a valuable tool in keeping everyone safe.
Why are in-home tests safer?
In-home tests are safer than standard testing centers and clinics mainly because they allow you to stay at home! Every interaction with someone outside your household presents a risk of exposure to COVID-19, even if you follow recommended social distancing guidelines. Avoiding those interactions lessens the risk – especially given the high likelihood of encounters with COVID-positive people or those assisting them at testing centers.
How can I get tested for COVID-19 at my house?
There are different types of tests available in your home:
DIY testing kits
DIY kits are available for purchase in some states, which consumers can administer to themselves and then mail or drop off the sample to be analyzed. The only test type widely available to consumers at the moment is the RT-PCR test, which requires lab processing. While these tests are convenient, they can vary greatly depending on which lab manufactures and processes the results. Samples exposed to extreme temperatures or delayed in the mail could deteriorate, making the results unreliable. The return time for results – beginning from the point the sample is received by the laboratory – can range anywhere from 3-14 days.
The first rapid antigen test kit, Ellume, was approved under emergency use in December 2020, but is not yet widely available as the tests are still being produced. It is anticipated that the test will be priced at roughly $30 per kit once it is widely available, but will likely be more expensive when it initially hits shelves of major retail pharmacies. These tests require no lab processing, and return results in approximately 15 minutes; however, they are slightly less accurate than its RT-PCR cousin.
In-home medical services
Until Ellume is widely available, onsite medical service providers such as Concierge MD LA are currently the only way to access rapid RT-PCR testing in your home.
Should you choose one of these in-home services for your needs, you can usually book an appointment online or over the phone. With this service you can have a nurse with a COVID test come to your house with all testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to keep you and your family safe. Some services offer group or family testing, a further convenience for busy families.
Depending on the type of test you chose, the nurse will either process the test during your appointment or package the samples properly and bring them in for lab processing. Once results are in, your nurse will discuss the results and advise you on any steps to take in case someone tests positive.