During the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 tests were in extremely short supply. You needed a doctor’s order to get tested and to get those orders, you had to meet specific criteria, such as having a fever and showing other COVID-19 symptoms.
The US isn’t struggling as much now with a shortage of coronavirus test kits and related supplies, thanks partly to the advent of at-home testing. These tests — of which there are now eight authorized for use — eliminate the need for someone who is feeling sick to go to a testing site or clinic, which in turn means that fewer people are exposed to the virus.
More than half a year into the pandemic, testing remains a crucial element of slowing the spread, because it identifies people who are carrying the virus, both those who are ill and those who aren’t exhibiting any symptoms. Once people are aware that they are infected, they can take the proper measures to avoid others to prevent exposure.
Medical testing companies started developing coronavirus home test kits back in March, but the Food and Drug Administration was initially slow to authorize them, warning consumers of potentially fraudulent tests. As the pandemic wore on, the FDA began issuing emergency use authorizations, or EUAs, to help increase the total number of available tests. As of October, just about anyone can order an at-home coronavirus test with just a few clicks.
Here’s what to know about at-home test kits, the FDA’s stance, and how to get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you’ve been exposed. There are currently two types of tests available for home use: swab tests and saliva tests.
Doctor takes a swab from his nose to test for the coronavirus | PHOTO: ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/REUTERS