The post-Thanksgiving rush for Covid-19 testing is on: Pharmacies in the Southern California suburbs are advising customers lucky enough to score appointments that it could be four days before they receive results. In Chelsea, Mass., a line of people who hoped for testing was pelted by rain and wind early this week. In Atlanta, people have idled in cars, sometimes for hours, to get swabbed at drive-throughs.
Testing has long been one of the keys to controlling the spread of the virus. Yet securing a test has become enough of an ordeal that many people have been dissuaded from even trying.
That has begun to change in recent weeks as a handful of communities across the country have rolled out the first do-it-yourself home saliva tests, which require users to simply dribble into a test tube, seal it and send it to a lab.
“This is the best thing for my parents’ safety,” said Sandra Reyes-Aceves, 48, who lives in Anaheim, Calif., with her two teenage children and aging parents. “I don’t have to make them leave the house to get tested.”
In Minnesota, once a testing kit is ordered, it is typically shipped within 24 hours. During sample collection, users are supervised via Zoom by a health worker at Vault Health, the company contracted by the state health department to manage the saliva-based tests using the Spectrum Solutions SDNA-1000 saliva collection system. Results are available in 24 to 48 hours.
Public health officials have long hoped that combining the ease of saliva sampling with at-home collection would open important new windows into the spread of the virus and help persuade those who did not know they were infected to stay home and limit further transmission.
A test people can do at home and mail-in “really helps,” said Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at the U.C.L.A. Fielding School of Public Health. “It isn’t going to end the pandemic, but it is certainly a major step toward making testing more accessible and widespread.”
Coronavirus saliva-based testing kits are assembled at the Spectrum Solutions factory in Utah last month | Credit…George Frey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images