I-TEAM: The results are in for four at-home COVID-19 tests

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 5:47 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The results are in after our I-Team put several at-home coronavirus tests to the test. In all, our Meredith Anderson took five different tests.

Four of them she did herself, and then she took a fifth one at Augusta University's drive-thru.

Tonight, we're not the only ones interested in Meredith's results. They also have the attention of a researcher at the Medical College of Georgia.

I guess I've always had a nose for news. I just never thought my nose would be on the news.

At least, not like this.

Meanwhile, we put no pressure on the companies that make these tests. When I ordered four of them, I didn’t disclose I’m reporter because I didn’t want this story to possibly affect any part of this process -- starting with the cost. And the cost was nothing to sneeze at since tests range in price from $109 to $150.

I didn't pay anything upfront for this one, though. Pixel genetics files with your insurance or uses what it calls "public funds."

In the end, the I-Team paid a total of $378, so I could test a total of four tests. Make that five. I also signed up for an appointment to get a drive-thru test at AU because we wanted to make sure at least one test was administered by a health care professional.

Because clearly, I am not a health care professional.

Dr. Ravindra Kolhe is a pathologist at the Medical College of Georgia.

"I think you're doing a phenomenal job for the community," Kolhe said, "And I mean, a lot of people will be very interested and beneficial based on your results."

And those results came a lot sooner than I expected. Just last month, we told you about a back-log with commercial labs, leaving local families in limbo separated for safety.

It took exactly three weeks for Qiara Scott to get her results.

As for our results, we mailed our four tests off on a Tuesday. Two went via UPS and two others went via FedEx. We kept a close eye on them. All four tests arrived at their respective lab the next day.

Just 24 hours later on Thursday, I had three of my results: Pixel by LabCorp, EverlyWell, and Picture Genetics -- all negative.

The next day, Vault sent my spit sample result -- also negative. That means the longest turnaround time was a mere 48 hours.

Meanwhile, at the Augusta University drive-thru, I realized I might not have gone far enough when I tried this at home. If you've had this test, you know how far the nurses at AU will push that swab in your nose.

I honestly don't know if I could have even done that myself, but turns out I probably didn't need something so aggressive.

I have no symptoms, have had no known exposure, and am currently working from home. If I wasn't testing other tests, Kolhe says, I wouldn't need to come here.

"Sometimes people just go there because they want to get tested," Kolhe said. "I think those group of people can definitely utilize the at-home testing."

Freeing up these tests for those on the front lines -- either in hospitals or nursing homes. As well as those who have reason to believe they could be positive. In other words, he doesn't recommend people sign up for this test multiple times -- just to see.

"There has not been any major study with the FDA compare like what are you doing," Kolhe said. "I think what you're doing is phenomenal because that will not only educate a lot of people who are watching, but also help us, other people to understand what what might be the true on ground reality of these at-home tests."

In the meantime, the FDA is calling for an even easier-to-use version of these home tests -- ones that essentially act like pregnancy tests where results are instant then and there without sending them off to a lab.

A non-profit called “The XPrize” is offering a $5 million pot to those who can produce a COVID test that gives an answer in 15 minutes and costs under $15.

Until then, the I-Team found the at-home tests could be a good alternative -- especially with the free option. Vault also recently sent an email suggesting I ask my insurance company for reimbursement,so it's worth checking to see if your policy covers any of these.

Twenty-four hours after my AU test, I also got the same result -- negative. It was reassuring news, both when it comes to the accuracy of the four at-home tests -- and for my own peace of mind.

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