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Costco selling COVID-19 test kits online; are they reliable?

Costco COVID test kits
Posted at 5:00 AM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 07:53:49-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Imagine getting a COVID-19 test from the comfort of your own home.

That's what Costco is offering by selling saliva test kits online.

They come at a steep price. The basic test kit is listed for $129.99, while a kit with video observation is $139.99.

The 41 Action News I-Team reached out to Costco for more information about the products. However, the company's corporate communications team was unwilling to respond to any questions, adding it is not staffed to do so.

"As always our focus is to have merchandise available for our members at low warehouse prices," a spokesman wrote in an email.

According to the Costco website, the kits are administered by Azova, which is a telemedicine platform.

A fact sheet for patients found on the Azova website shows the test used is the P23 Labs TaqPath SARS CoV-2 Assay.

The test has not been cleared or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, like many tests, it has received emergency use authorization from the agency.

That means the makers of the test need to continually submit data to the FDA, which will evaluate the information and study the accuracy of diagnoses.

Azoza claims 98% of positive tests and 99% of negative test results are accurate.

"Saliva testing can be very accurate. It is probably chosen (for at home testing) because the chance of having user error is much less than say a nasal swab," Dr. Dana Hawkinson of the University of Kansas Health System said.

A customer who purchases a kit from Costco must complete a health assessment online with Azova and register for a lab order and test kit.

The actual kit should come the next day, but results won't arrive for one to three days after the lab receives the sample.

The kit with video observation, however, promises results in 24-48 hours.

"If that's the only thing that you're using for diagnosis and you have symptoms, you need to be isolated in your home until those results come back," Hawkinson added.

In his opinion, it's not the most efficient way to get tested once the shipping time and wait for results are factored into the equation.

However, Hawkinson believes we may see more options like this in the future.

"The technology is out there. It is progressing quickly," he said. "Hopefully as time goes on we do get more access to people so there can be readily available testing with efficient and accurate test results."

The Costco website says both test kits are eligible for flexible medical spending accounts.

Although the CARES Act mandated that insurers cover COVID testing costs, Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, a CNN medical analyst, writes whether insurers "will pay fully for a more bells and whistles program such as that provided by Costco likely will vary plan to plan."

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