The first at-home coronavirus test is out, and it's useless

The FDA and a major laboratory testing company, LabCorp, just announced the first FDA-approved at-home test for COVID-19.

The problem is, it's almost useless. Here's why.

1. It's far too expensive, at $119 per test. Only wealthy people will be able to take advantage of this.
2. The kit itself (called the Pixel) is little more than a long Q-tip and saline solution. As the FDA describes it:
"LabCorp’s molecular test permits testing of a sample collected from the patient’s nose using a designated self-collection kit that contains nasal swabs and saline."
Your $119 pays for FedEx shipping both ways and for the actual test, which is done at LabCorp's facility.
3. It's far too slow. You have to apply for the kit, get it authorized by a physician, wait for the kit to arrive, ship it back, and only then will LabCorp run the test. You find out the results online. This sounds like it will take at least 5 days, probably a week. Much faster tests are available already for those who can drive to a testing site.
4. LabCorp doesn't have many of the kits available yet. Their own website, citing "limited quantities," says they will only sell the kits to healthcare workers and first responders for now.
5. For unexplained reasons, the company states that the kits aren't available at all in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Rhode Island. As everyone knows by now, New York has more cases than any other state in the country.

I was briefly excited when I saw this announcement. It turns out to describe a low-volume, overpriced test that will likely have little or no impact on the pandemic. We need millions of tests, freely available to everyone, not a small number of expensive tests only available to a few.

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