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In-home COVID-19 tests without contact tracing is ‘bad public health’

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Gillian Smith

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first in-home test for the novel coronavirus, which will allow patients to swab their own nose using a testing kit sent LabCorp and mail it in an insulated package back to the company. The test will be available in most states.


Isaac Weisfuse

Isaac Weisfuse

Medical Epidemiologist

Isaac Weisfuse, a medical epidemiologist at Cornell University with more than 25 years of experience in public health at the local and national levels, says that while in-home testing will help reduce the potential risk for transmission, there is still a critical need for contact tracing.

Weisfuse says:

“The availability of a new in-home COVID-19 test will expand testing options and reduce the need for travel to medical appointments, saving time and the potential risk of transmission. The test will be initially be offered to exposed or symptomatic health care workers and emergency personnel only. Consumers need to be aware of some limitations of the test. For example, it will test for active infection in order to establish a diagnosis, but not to document resolved prior exposure, which would require an antibody test. There is also a possibility of both false positives and false negatives and is therefore considered less reliable than the standard test administered by health care personnel.  

“LabCorp should work with public health authorities to emphasize the critical need of contact tracing for anyone who tests positive. Any positive test without contact tracing is bad public health because it misses an opportunity to reduce the spread of the virus. The test carries a $119 out of pocket cost. Even with subsequent reimbursement, given the current economic situation, this initial cost may put it financially out of reach many who could benefit, and ultimately limit its use.”

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