The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first rapid at-home test for Covid-19. It is a critical step forward in our efforts to contain the spread of disease, though the journey is far from complete. 

The test, manufactured by Lucira Health, includes a nasal swab, sample vial, and a battery-operated testing device. Users swab each of their nostrils five times then stir the swab into the sample vial before pressing it into the testing unit. After 30 minutes, the testing device will shine green and indicate either a positive or negative test result. It is the first of its kind in the United States, and the only test that lets people swab themselves, analyze the sample, and receive results entirely from home.

Public health leaders have long advocated for rapid at-home diagnostic kits to help stop the spread of Covid-19. If people suspect they’ve been infected and can quickly and easily confirm their suspicions, they can immediately self-isolate and warn those around them of their exposure, curtailing the ability of the virus to spread. Computer simulations have suggested that if Americans were tested every one to three days, transmission could be reduced by more than 80% — enough to conceivably put a rapid end to the epidemic.

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Originally published on Forbes (November 19, 2020)