What Goes on Behind the High-Tech COVID-19 Tests That People Never Hear

Courtesy of USAID U.S. Agency for International Development (Flickr CC0)

Many people are curious about how COVID-19 is diagnosed. The outbreak has prompted a surge in COVID-19 tests, which are now available worldwide. However, not many people know what goes on behind the scenes of COVID-19 tests. Here’s how these tests are done:

In Utah, tech companies, including Nomi, Domo, and Qualtrics, launched a no-bid program for COVID-19 testing. What started as a philanthropic effort in Utah quickly morphed into a commercial enterprise. Tech executives bought COVID-19 test kits in bulk, organized the deployment of mobile testing sites, and hired a small army of nurses to collect specimens. The company partnered with a laboratory close to its headquarters to provide the COVID-19 tests. As a result, the state was paying the companies a staggering $26 million for a year of testing.

Antigen tests rely on the proteins on the virus’s surface to determine whether an individual is infected with the disease. These COVID tests can give the results in as little as 15 minutes. Antigen tests are also available at the local pharmacy, like the QuickVue OTC, the Abbott Binax, NOW coronavirus Self Test, and the iHealth’s Antigen Rapid Test. Although affordable, antigen tests may not be as accurate as molecular tests and may not give the complete picture.

How Accessible Are the New Coronavirus Tests?

Courtesy of Sue Thompson (Flickr CC0)

In the past, Warren Knight, a blind man, had to take the COVID-19 test in a pharmacy. He was able to use public transportation and even rideshare services to get there, but now, he would have to spend the entire day at the Pharmacy. For him, the new at-home COVID-19 tests would be more convenient and private. He lives alone and would have to depend on someone else to take the test if he were to have any symptoms.

Accessible Pharmacy has launched COVID-19 testing services that are free or cost only $50. These tests are covered by insurance and may be administered by a health care provider. Health centers are essential to the national response and offer convenient affordable virus tests. However, these facilities face several problems, including fluctuating prices and limited accessibility. In addition to the limited availability of testing sites, some health care providers may not be able to offer the service.

The new COVID-19 tests are simple and easy to use. The test requires a nasal swab. It can detect coronavirus in asymptomatic people as well as those with symptoms. It is also affordable — a COVID-19 test has never been this cheap.

When Should People Opt for OTC Molecular Test

OTC molecular COVID-19 tests are preferable for specific scenarios. It can save frequent travelers time and money but lacks standardized COVID-19 travel protocols.

These COVID-19 tests are portable and can be done at the last minute without scrambling to get to an in-person PCR testing location. OTC molecular COVID tests also eliminate the need to get tested in a foreign country for individuals who always go away for business trips.

It would be ideal if these COVID-19 tests were affordable for everyone, but it is impossible to issue a blanket statement on whether these tests are worth the people’s extra money.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas


The Verge: Behind the High-Tech COVID-19 Tests You Probably Haven’t Heard About; by Victoria Song
Engadget: Recommended Reading: High-tech COVID-19 testing at home; by B Steele
WHO: WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of USAID U.S. Agency for International Development’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Sue Thompson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *