Why is it taking so long to rollout home COVID tests?

Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Although no single test will end the pandemic in the United States, experts say the ability for people to take a test at home and know within minutes whether they’re infected could be an important component in stanching the spread of the virus.

Such a test could be taken several days ahead of a visit with grandparents, for example. Or before heading into work. And if a local outbreak occurs, officials could hand out hundreds of at-home rapid tests to find and stop viral transmission.

Some retailers, including Costco, have begun selling home tests to consumers, but they are costly — about $130 — and require people to mail their sample to a lab and wait 24 to 48 hours for results. The rapid tests now being developed could cost as little as $5 and take 15 minutes for results.

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“It is hard to do. There’s a reason no one has gotten FDA approval yet,” said James Li, founder and chief executive of Cellex, a biotechnology company that has been working for months on an at-home test. The FDA is requiring that antigen tests sold directly to consumers be more accurate than most antigen tests to date, because consumers at home will be left to interpret the results on their own.

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