March 31, 2020 / BY JAMIE DUCHARME
As the COVID-19 outbreak worsens in the U.S., at-home test kits for the virus have been a source of both hope and controversy.
Their appeal is clear: sick individuals could get a diagnosis from the comfort of home, without infecting others. But their downsides are real: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cracked down on unauthorized at-home COVID-19 tests, updating its emergency use authorization guidelines to exclude at-home test kits and warning Americans that no such tests have received agency authorization.
That means startups previously offering these products—such as Everlywell, Nurx and Carbon Health—must now stop. All three confirmed to TIME that they are not currently offering at-home COVID-19 testing, though all stand by the need for it.
If they can convince the FDA, these kits could help shape public perception of at-home medical testing for years to come. COVID-19 has already proven its ability to alter the way American physicians practice, and the way the U.S. government regulates health care. With millions of Americans confined to their homes and unable to see doctors face-to-face, virtual telehealth platforms are surging after years of slow uptake. In response to the COVID-19 emergency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has greatly expanded Medicare’s ability to cover these appointments.