Archive for Andrea Michelson

For a COVID-safe car ride, open at least two windows halfway and wear a mask

masked girl looking out car window
  • Opening windows decreases your risk of transmitting coronavirus-laden particles in a car.
  • It's best to open all four windows, but two open windows can provide sufficient ventilation.
  • Make sure to roll down the windows at least halfway, keep your mask on, and don't let other precautions slide.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Sharing a car with someone is one of the riskiest things you can do without cohabitating, as far as coronavirus transmission goes.

While taking a car may feel like a slightly safer alternative compared to public transportation, it's still a small, enclosed space. Even if all passengers are wearing masks, some small particles can escape from the face coverings into the air.

"It's usually not significant when you're outdoors, because it gets diluted," Varghese Mathai, a physicist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told Insider. "But when you're in a confined space like that of a car, if [the particles] are not flushed out of the cabin, they can remain and build up a concentration with time."

Mathai, along with researchers from Brown University, has been modeling how particles may move inside vehicles with various levels of ventilation. 

Read more: A free app from Brown University researchers reveals your risk of getting COVID-19 based on your activity and zip code

Unsurprisingly, in their simulation, published in Science Advances earlier this month, rolling down all of the windows was the most effective way to clear out potentially virus-laden particles from a car.

When all windows were closed, 8% to 10% of the tiny particles one person exhaled could reach another. That number dropped to 0.2% to 2% when all four windows were open.

But on a chilly winter day, opening all of the windows may not be the most practical option, so the authors experimented with alternatives, and came up with some suggestions.

If you're going to open two windows, pick the ones opposite the driver and passenger

The simulated car was based on a Toyota Prius driving at 50 miles per hours, with a driver in the front left seat and a single passenger in the back right.

While a passenger may intuitively crack the window closest to them upon getting in a car, opening the windows opposite the driver (front right) and passenger (back left) provided better ventilation in the model.

In a moving car, fresh air typically flows in through the rear window and out the front window, Mathai said. Opening the windows opposite the occupants not only provides an entry and exit point for particles, but also creates a current of air separating the passenger from the driver.

However, Mathai said the difference between the two-windows-open configurations they tested was "marginal."

Read more: Are rental cars safe to drive right now? We talked to 3 leading experts to find out.

You should open some windows at least halfway if you're sharing a car, and always wear a mask

Opening car windows is not a foolproof way to avoid coronavirus transmission, Mathai said - and cracking them just a tad won't do much at all.

"If you just cracked the window, we do not get this kind of a strong drop," Mathai said. "It would be good to open it at least to half level."

Sharing a car with someone outside of your household is a risky move, and opening windows is one way to reduce that risk. But Mathai cautioned that extra ventilation is not a substitute for other prevention measures, such as mask-wearing, handwashing, and sanitizing common surfaces.

Read more: 24% of New York City's bus and subway workers have contracted COVID-19, and 76% said they personally knew a coworker who died, a new NYU survey finds

Plastic barriers between driver and passenger could help stop droplets

The simulation didn't factor in potential barriers between the front and back seat, like a traditional taxi partition or a makeshift plastic sheet.

Mathai said that, while such sheets are not a substitute for fresh air, it doesn't hurt to have them. As other experts have told Insider, preventing coronavirus transmission is like layering Swiss cheese: each layer has its limitations, but if you stack enough slices, you should be able to cover the holes. 

"The barriers are helpful in preventing all kinds of droplet transmission, including the small ones, possibly," Mathai said. "But a better way is to also have a ventilation system, so that the air inside the cabin gets replenished with fresh air from the outside."

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Hundreds of New Yorkers descended on a vaccination site after a Facebook post said there were over 400 spare shots

vaccines
A pharmacist fills a syringe to prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for front-line health care workers at a vaccination site at Torrance Memorial Medical Center on December 19, 2020 in Torrance, California.
  • A Facebook post said there were more than 400 extra vaccine doses available in New York City for walk-in appointments that needed to be used before 7pm.
  • Swarms of New Yorkers lined up at Brooklyn Grand Army Terminal seeking the vaccine, but officials said there was not enough for people without appointments.
  • The mayor's office told Insider that the city has a "variety" of ways to make sure excess doses are used, and added that this vaccine site is open 24 hours a day.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Crowds of New Yorkers rushed to a vaccination site in Brooklyn after a Facebook post Thursday afternoon said there were spare COVID-19 shots that needed to be used up quickly.

A post that read, "PLEASE SHARE: We need to give out 410+ doses in the next 4 hours at Brooklyn Army Terminal (by 7pm), taking anyone in community age 18+, walk ins, or earlier than scheduled" was shared and reposted across parents' groups and other Facebook circles.

But as crowds descended on Brooklyn Army Terminal in cars and on foot, the mayor's office tweeted that the shots are reserved for people with appointments, and the Facebook post was a "bogus" rumor. 

At the same time, however, people in the line, including Insider's Associate Travel Editor Hannah Freedman who arrived around 5pm, said they were told walk-ins were an option, and were directed into a separate queue for spare shots. That line eventually dispersed as doctors and police walked down saying there were no more shots.

Mixed messages

Approximately 500 people were in line at Brooklyn Army Terminal around 5pm, author and columnist Jessica Valenti wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted.

Another Twitter user, Stephen Lurie, posted a video of people standing in line at Brooklyn Army. He wrote that it looked like more than 400 people were there, and that a security guard was telling people to go home but they were asking for more information and refusing to leave.

Bill Neidhardt, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio, moved to shut down the fast-spreading information on Twitter, writing in a tweet that the mayor's office would be sending someone to clear up the line.

New York City councilman Justin Brannan also tweeted, urging New Yorkers away from Brooklyn Army Terminal.

 

Brannan told Insider in an email that the claim about extra vaccines was "100% BOGUS."

The New York City mayor's office confirmed to Insider that there is no formal waitlist for people who are not in priority groups to get vaccinated ahead of schedule. Vaccination sites work with city officials to reach eligible citizens so no doses are wasted.

The Brooklyn Army Terminal is also a 24/7 vaccination site, so having thawed vaccines left over at the end of the day was not a concern there.

"The city has a variety of ways that doses are used," a spokesperson for the mayor's office said, adding that vaccination sites work with city officials to reach eligible citizens, so no doses are wasted.

Right now, the city is vaccinating its healthcare workers, nursing home residents, grocery store workers, first responders, and transit workers, as well as teachers, people living or working in homeless shelters or group homes, and anyone over 65 years old. 

To make an appointment, New Yorkers in the priority groups can use the city's online registration form, or call 877-VAX-4NYC. 

Hilary Brueck contributed reporting. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Florida is becoming a vaccine tourism destination as foreigners and out-of-staters head there to get a COVID-19 shot

florida vaccine line
Elderly Florida residents have dealt with long lines and wait times during the vaccine rollout.
  • Florida is offering COVID-19 vaccines to adults aged 65 and up, and it's not requiring proof of residency.
  • Some part-time residents and well-connected people from out of state are flying south to get their shots.
  • The governor discouraged vaccine tourism, but he said it's OK for out-of-staters who winter in Florida to get vaccinated.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Although many states are now expanding their eligibility criteria for the COVID-19 vaccine, Florida was one of the first to offer the shot to adults aged 65 and older. The state's broad vaccination plan has attracted travelers hoping to take advantage from near and far.

Vaccine-seekers have flocked to Florida from Canada and Argentina, as well as New York and other states, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Governor Ron DeSantis said in a press conference last week that most of these visitors are in fact part-time residents, not so-called "vaccine tourists." "If they have a residence and they're not just kind of flying by night for a week or two, I'm totally fine with that," DeSantis said, according to the Journal. "That's a little bit different than somebody that's just doing tourism and trying to come here. So we're discouraging people to come to Florida just to get a vaccine."

However, the state's current plan does not require proof of Florida residency for someone to get vaccinated.

Some vaccine tourists are 'snowbirds' who normally spend a season down south

Many "snowbirds"  - people who live in colder climates and migrate to Florida for the winter - canceled their trips this year due to the pandemic, but some are now considering rescheduling in light of the vaccine rollout, a Canadian travel insurance booker told CBS12 News.

"Canadians who had no intentions of going down in their traditional November-April period have now become interested because of the [vaccine] availability and are now starting to make arrangements to head south," Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure, told the outlet. "They all have it on their radar. There's tremendous interest."

Firestone told CBS12 all of the clients he's spoken to are part-time Florida residents, not vaccine tourists.

If the snowbirds are planning on extending their visits, rather than flying in for the vaccine and returning home, it could be in the best interest of Florida communities to vaccinate their part-time residents.

"Regardless of where someone lives, if they are spending time in our community-on our beaches, in our restaurants, in our malls-they can be spreaders of this virus," a representative of the Miami Jackson County Health Department told the Wall Street Journal.

For instance, a couple from Bethlehem, New York, told local paper the Times Union they flew to Florida and each received a dose of the Moderna vaccine on January 7. They've since returned to New York, but they plan to spend the rest of the winter in the Sunshine State after they get their second shots.

Read the original article on Business Insider

People are randomly getting vaccinated at pharmacies because of extra doses that need to be used before they expire

vaccine vials
Vials of undiluted Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to administer to staff and residents at a senior living community in Falls Church, Virginia, on December 30, 2020.
  • Non-priority people are getting vaccinated ahead of schedule when pharmacies have extra doses thawed.
  • In some cases, vaccine providers are faced with the decision to throw out extra doses when they expire or give them to random people.
  • Other times, confusion about the amount of doses per vial and rumors of excess supply have led to mishaps in vaccine allocation.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Across the country, some non-healthcare workers are getting their COVID-19 vaccines earlier than expected because pharmacies have extra doses left over.

That's not to say there's an excess supply of vaccines overall. However, both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines need to be stored at cold temperatures and used within hours of thawing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In some cases, pharmacies and hospitals find themselves with leftover doses at the end of the day, and they are faced with the choice to either throw out the vials or offer them to lower-priority recipients.

Although the Food and Drug Administration has given vaccine providers the green light to use  any extra doses left in the Pfizer and Moderna vials, the federal government hasn't specified what should be done when there are more thawed doses than eligible recipients.

Some providers have taken matters into their own hands to ensure that no vaccine doses go unused. They've offered the leftovers to local first responders, pharmacy staff, and the occasional average person who happened to be in the right place at the right time.

A couple in Kentucky heard about extra doses from a friend and 'ran right up'

News of extra vaccine doses at a Louisville, Kentucky Walgreens reached the Mastersons by word of mouth on Christmas Eve. 

"[A friend] called us, and we ran right up. It was pure luck," Andrew Masterson, co-owner of local restaurant Captain's Quarters, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. He added that he and his wife, who is undergoing chemotherapy for stage 4 cancer, each got a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Walgreens that day.

The pharmacy chain has been contracted to supply vaccines to long-term care facilities in Kentucky, and on December 24, "the amount of vaccine doses requested by facilities exceeded the actual need," Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso told the Courier-Journal.

Caruso told the outlet that this situation was an isolated occurrence, but Governor Andy Beshear confirmed that a similar incident took place at a Walgreens in Lexington, Kentucky, the week prior.

"The reaction wasn't what it should have been," Beshear told the Courier-Journal, referring to both incidents. "Now, do I believe it came from a good place - yes, because they didn't want any of it to go to waste, but should it have been done differently - yes."

In DC, a law student got lucky at the supermarket

Law school student David MacMillan was getting groceries at a Giant Food in Washington, DC, when a pharmacist asked him and his friend if they would like the Moderna vaccine.

Not all of the healthcare who were scheduled to get the dose that day showed, a Giant representative wrote in a statement supporting the pharmacist's actions.

The pair quickly accepted the offer. MacMillan posted a video on TikTok detailing his experience Friday.

 

"She turned to us and was like, 'Hey, I've got two doses of the vaccine and I'm going to have to throw them away if I don't give them to somebody. We close in 10 minutes. Do you want the Moderna vaccine?" he said in the video. 

MacMillan told NBC Washington he posted the video to address any misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's important that, when there's so much misinformation swirling, that people are able to see that this is a good thing, this is a positive thing. We should be excited about being able to deal with the pandemic," MacMillan told the outlet.

In other cases, confusion about doses led to misallocation of vaccines

Not all instances of people receiving extra doses have been happy accidents.

Hundreds of elderly people in Tennessee were turned away from getting a COVID-19 vaccine on New Year's Eve, only for health officials to call up their family and friends to get their shots later that day.

The Hamilton County Health Department tweeted telling people to "please leave the line NOW and return at another time," just over an hour after vaccinations began, because the line was so long it reached the highway, NBC affiliate WRCB-TV reported.

Later that day, officials said they realized there were more thawed vials that needed to be used, prompting them to offer shots to non-priority recipients.

At Stanford Hospital last week, some non-clinical affiliates got vaccinated during a walk-in period because they were under the impression there were extra doses. Stanford released a statement saying there was not actually an excess supply of vaccines.

Finally, a woman who said she works for Disney wrote in a Facebook post (which has since been taken down) that she received a vaccine from Redlands Community Hospital in Southern California with the help of family connections. There were doses left over after the vaccinations of frontline healthcare workers in that case, but the extra shots were supposed to go to lower-priority healthcare workers.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Georgia confirms its first case of more the contagious COVID-19 variant on Election Day

Boots test covid coronavirus
  • An 18-year-old male was the first Georgia resident to test positive for the new B117 variant of COVID-19.
  • The variant was first discovered in the UK last month and is believed to be more contagious than the original virus.
  • Cases of this variant have also been found in New York, California, Colorado, and Florida.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Georgia Department of Health announced that an 18-year-old male was the state's first case of the new, more contagious variant of COVID-19.

The news comes during an already chaotic election day in Georgia, where voters are casting their ballots for two Senate runoff races.

 

According to the Department of Health press release, the teen has not traveled recently and is currently isolating at home. His lack of travel history suggests that he contracted the virus via community spread.

The variant known as B117 was first detected in the UK in December and has been found in at least 33 countries to date.

In the US, the new variant has showed up in California, Colorado, Florida, and New York within the past week.

The B117 variant has been found to be more contagious than the original, "wild-type" virus that has circulated in the US so far, but there's no evidence that it's especially dangerous or resistant vaccines.

However, health officials are concerned that a more transmissible form of the virus could cause more infections and deaths overall. An increase in cases sent England into a national lockdown yesterday, and stay at home orders will continue through mid-February.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Georgia confirms its first case of more the contagious COVID-19 variant on Election Day

Boots test covid coronavirus
  • An 18-year-old male was the first Georgia resident to test positive for the new B117 variant of COVID-19.
  • The variant was first discovered in the UK last month and is believed to be more contagious than the original virus.
  • Cases of this variant have also been found in New York, California, Colorado, and Florida.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Georgia Department of Health announced that an 18-year-old male was the state's first case of the new, more contagious variant of COVID-19.

The news comes during an already chaotic election day in Georgia, where voters are casting their ballots for two Senate runoff races.

 

According to the Department of Health press release, the teen has not traveled recently and is currently isolating at home. His lack of travel history suggests that he contracted the virus via community spread.

The variant known as B117 was first detected in the UK in December and has been found in at least 33 countries to date.

In the US, the new variant has showed up in California, Colorado, Florida, and New York within the past week.

The B117 variant has been found to be more contagious than the original, "wild-type" virus that has circulated in the US so far, but there's no evidence that it's especially dangerous or resistant vaccines.

However, health officials are concerned that a more transmissible form of the virus could cause more infections and deaths overall. An increase in cases sent England into a national lockdown yesterday, and stay at home orders will continue through mid-February.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The more contagious UK variant of COVID-19 has been found in New York

Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
  • A man living in upstate New York has tested positive for a new variant of the coronavirus that is believed to be more contagious.
  • The new variant was first detected in the UK last month and found in Southern California last week.
  • It has also been found in Colorado and Florida.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The new, likely more contagious variant of the coronavirus has reached New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

A Saratoga County man in his 60s tested positive for the new variant, Cuomo said on a conference call Monday afternoon, according to NBC New York. The variant known as B117 was first detected in the UK last month.

The Saratoga man had no recent history of travel, Cuomo said in a tweet. That means he likely contracted the virus through community spread.

While the new variant is more contagious than the virus that has circulated in the US so far, it does not appear to be more deadly or resistant to vaccines.

The new variant was found in Southern California last week and has been discovered in Colorado and Florida.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why you have to wear a mask for a few months after you get your COVID-19 vaccine

california face mask man coronavirus
A man wears a mask in Los Angeles on June 18.
  • The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines signals a step towards normalcy, but it doesn't mean you should stop wearing a mask.
  • Mask-wearing and social distancing are vital to keep yourself and others safe while we wait for the vaccine to become more widely available.
  • The vaccine won't protect you right away, and we still don't know whether it keeps you from contracting the virus or if it just prevents you from getting sick.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Three coronavirus vaccines - from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford-AstraZeneca - have been approved in either the US, the UK, or both. While getting the vaccines to people who need it most is a major step in the right direction, it doesn't mean the pandemic is over.

Precautions like wearing masks and social distancing will continue to be necessary until the majority of people worldwide have been vaccinated and we know more about how the shot works in the long term.

"I think people's perception is you get the vaccine and you're safe and finally we can stop all this masking and social distancing and stuff, but that's not actually reality," Debra Goff, an infectious-disease pharmacist and professor at the Ohio State University, told Insider's Anna Medaris Miller.

The reality is we don't yet know whether the vaccine protects people from contracting and spreading COVID-19 or if it just keeps them from getting noticeably ill. What's more, even if the vaccine does protect you from getting the virus, it won't be fully effective until after the second dose - about a month after the first shot.

So, in the meantime, "for the good of your fellow mankind, you need to continue to wear that mask," and maintain physical distance from others, Goff said.

You need both shots to be fully protected from COVID-19

The COVID-19 vaccines contain tiny pieces of genetic material meant to teach your immune system how to fight off the coronavirus. These bits of messenger RNA can't get you sick with COVID-19, but it takes some time for them to do their job.

The Pfizer vaccine, for instance, is only 52% effective at preventing COVID-19 after the first dose. The second shot, when administered three weeks later, brings that number up to 95%.

It's possible to contract COVID-19 during the period between the first and second shot. In fact, a California nurse reported testing positive for COVID-19 the day after Christmas - just over a week after he got his first shot of the vaccine.

Doctors said this scenario was bound to happen eventually, since people don't even begin to develop antibodies until 10-14 days after getting the first shot. During the stretch of time between doses, it's vital to wear a mask to protect yourself and others.

You also might need to wear a mask to protect others who haven't gotten both doses of the vaccine yet

Most Americans will have to wait until May to get their shots - and that's a fairly conservative estimate. While priority groups such as healthcare workers, the elderly, and people with preexisting conditions will slowly gain access to the vaccine throughout the winter and spring, it won't be widely available to whoever wants it until the summer, Hilary Brueck and Aria Bendix previously reported for Insider.

And that's just the US timeline. The pandemic won't be officially over until the whole world has access to the vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates said on a podcast in November.

"If we have the disease elsewhere in the world, it's not clear to me we can go back and do big sports events or open up the bars because like Australia or South Korea, the risk of reinfection will be looming out there," Gates said on the podcast. "So as long as it's in the world, I'm not sure we'll be completely back to normal." 

It's also possible that some vaccines may be more effective in some populations than others, Fauci added - and not all vaccine options will be close to 100% effective. Given the patchwork of coverage we're looking at, it's important to wear a mask and keep a distance from others until the majority of the population is immune to the coronavirus.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Stanford Medicine accidentally vaccinated non-frontline workers over the weekend

Vaccine
  • Some non-clinical Stanford Medicine faculty and researchers mistakenly got the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of schedule this weekend.
  • Stanford Hospital offered walk-in vaccine appointments over the weekend and some affiliates thought they may be eligible to receive excess doses.
  • There was not actually an excess supply of vaccines, but an unconfirmed number of non-clinical staff got their shots anyway.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Some Stanford Medicine affiliates who do not work in patient-facing roles were able to get a first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this weekend due to miscommunication about walk-in appointments, the Stanford Daily reported Tuesday.

The vaccine was supposed to be reserved for frontline healthcare workers through next week, with non-clinical affiliates scheduled to receive the vaccine after January 8.

But when Stanford Hospital offered walk-in vaccinations on Saturday and Sunday - apparently because there weren't many vaccination appointments scheduled for the weekend - an unconfirmed number of non-clinical staff got the vaccine.

Stanford Health Care did not respond immediately to Insider's request for comment, but representative Julie Greicius wrote in a statement to the Stanford Daily that Stanford Medicine is administering vaccines to patient-facing health care workers "by invitation only" going forward.

This isn't the first blunder in Stanford's vaccine rollout. Stanford Medicine also came under fire a week earlier for prioritizing older, non-frontline workers over residents and fellows in the first round of shots. Leadership apologized for the misstep and said they would shift to prioritize frontline workers, but now the hospital is dealing with another wave of vaccine controversy.

This time, the issue seemed to be a combination of miscommunication about vaccine supply and a lack of eligibility verification at the walk-in appointments, according to four researchers and faculty who told the Daily they either knew someone who got the vaccine early or witnessed the situation firsthand.

Misinformation about an apparent excess of vaccines added to the confusion

False claims that Stanford Medicine had an excess supply of vaccines and non-clinical affiliates were eligible to get the extra doses circulated across email lists and social media over the weekend, which would explain why some affiliates thought they could walk into the hospital and get the shot. In reality, there was no excess supply.

One associate professor, a non-clinical genetics researcher, told the Daily he got the vaccine this weekend after hearing about supposed excess vaccine doses via the developmental biology department faculty mailing list.

"We were just notified through word of mouth that the Pfizer COVID19 vaccine is available for non-clinical staff, apparently they had an excess of it," the developmental biology department email obtained by The Daily read. "You need to enter through the atrium of the New Stanford Hospital. They're open until 11pm tonight and open at 7am tomorrow. No special authorization was needed."

The email was then forwarded to the genetics department and the news quickly circulated on social media, the Daily reported.

While there was not actually an excess vaccine supply at Stanford this weekend, it's true that pharmacists have been able to squeeze an extra dose or two out of both the Pfizer and Moderna vials.

Also this weekend, Redlands Community Hospital in Southern California reconsituted some extra doses for non-frontline healthcare workers - and a woman who works for Disney - after vaccinating the top-priority recipients.

This isn't Stanford's first vaccine misstep

Last week, Stanford Medical faced criticism for passing over frontline residents and fellows in the first round of vaccinations. The hospital used an algorithm that prioritized older employees - including higher-ups and teleworkers - and allowed younger, high-risk workers to slip through the cracks.

Doctors held a demonstration at Stanford Medical Center on December 18 to protest the hospital's misallocation of the vaccine. A letter to top Stanford Medicine officials, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, said only seven residents and fellows were vaccinated in the first round while high-ranking officials and remote workers came before them.

Stanford Medical released a statement saying it took "complete responsibility" for issues with the vaccine's rollout.

"Our intent was to develop an ethical and equitable process for distribution of the vaccine," the statement said. "We apologize to our entire community, including our residents, fellows, and other frontline care providers, who have performed heroically during our pandemic response. We are immediately revising our plan to better sequence the distribution of the vaccine."

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3 at-home rapid coronavirus tests are hitting the market. Here’s how to get them and use them.

home testing thumb
Ellume and Abbott Laboratories expect to deliver millions of at-home COVID-19 tests in 2021.
  • One thing to look forward to in 2021 is the rollout of rapid coronavirus tests you can take at home.
  • Lucira Health, Ellume, and most recently Abbott Laboratories have been granted emergency use authorization for fully at-home COVID-19 tests.
  • The companies expect the tests will be available in early 2021, but it's possible they won't be in widespread use until the summer.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Experts have been calling for the development of rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests since the start of the pandemic. While the speedier tests aren't quite as sensitive as the gold-standard RT-PCR, they could give people an extra tool to minimize the spread of the coronavirus in 2021.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation's top infectious disease doctors, has emphasized the impact that widely available home testing could have on the pandemic. In a special edition of Sirius XM's "Doctor Radio Reports," Fauci said the emergency use authorization of Ellume's at-home test was "a long time coming."

"I'm glad it's here and I think, if used properly, it would go a long way to getting people to appreciate whether they're infected or not and prevent them from exposing themselves to other people," Fauci told host Dr. Marc Siegel. "I really think this is a big positive."

The US Food and Drug Administration issued an EUA for Ellume's test, an over-the-counter kit that can detect active COVID-19 in 15 minutes or less, on December 15. Abbott Laboratories and Lucira Health were also granted EUAs for at-home tests this year, and more options are in various stages of research and FDA authorization.

Both Ellume and Abbott have said they'll be able to deliver millions of tests in the first quarter of 2021, but public health experts have offered more conservative timelines of when the kits will be readily accessible.

"At-home testing will be widely available probably late spring to summer," Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, previously told Insider. "I wish it was earlier than that, but I think widespread testing will be available, not at home, but in other contexts, well before then. Which will make a really big difference." 

Ellume's test is currently the only over-the-counter option you can use at home

Ellume has been working on a better, faster diagnostic technology since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. The result of a decade of research and development is an electronic analyzer that can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and delivers results within 15 minutes.

"This is the kind of core technology that we feel the world needs to respond to the next pandemic as well," Ellume founder and CEO Dr. Sean Parsons told Insider.

The COVID-19 Home Test is being manufactured in Australia, where the company is based, but it's specifically designated for use in the US. Unlike the other at-home tests on the market, it will be available over-the-counter for people with or without COVID-19 symptoms.

How does the test work?

Ellume's rapid antigen test comes with a free smartphone app that provides step-by-step instructions and a how-to video. The first step is to turn on the electronic analyzer, which looks like a pregnancy test, and pair it to your phone via Bluetooth. 

ellume step 1

Parsons demonstrated the test in a Zoom interview with Insider. After removing the child adapter - designed for swabbing smaller noses - he stuck the swab up his nostril until its cap touched his nose and made three rotations per nostril.

ellume step 4

The test also screens for a protein that lives in your mucous to make sure you got a thorough swab, he said. If the sample is insufficient, you'll get an inconclusive result, but most people were able to follow the directions and get a good swab in the trial.

ellume step 6

Then, he screwed the swab into a squeezable container, which he had previously filled with orange processing fluid. The swab cap handily converts into a dropper for depositing the fluid on the analyzer. Within 15 minutes of squeezing out the droplets, Parsons got a message on the app confirming that he did not have COVID-19.

How accurate is it?

Ellume's test is 96% accurate when compared to the RT-PCR test. In a clinical study of 198 people, the test caught 96% of cases in symptomatic individuals and 91% of cases in asymptomatic individuals.

When will it be available?

Parsons said the first shipments of the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test are going out in the first week of January, but Americans will likely have to wait until February to see it in stores.

Ellume is on track to ship 100,000 tests per day in January and 200,000 tests per day by March, with the goal of delivering 20 million tests in the first half of 2021.

How much will it cost?

Target price: $30

Abbott's BinaxNOW will be the cheapest home test, but you'll need a prescription 

Abbott is bringing its already approved rapid antigen test into the home with the help of eMed, a digital health solutions provider. The BinaxNOW Ag Card Home Test, designed for use alongside the NAVICA app, was granted an EUA on December 16 and will be shipped to states starting January 1, 2021.

Unlike Ellume's test kit, this home test is available by prescription only to people with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. eMed takes care of determining eligibility and ensuring an accurate self-collection with the help of trained telehealth proctors.

"Our goal is just to get people back to school and to work, and we think our process and this eMed-Abott partnership really supports us getting to where we need to be regarding increasing accessibility and affordability and confidence in the test results," Dr. Patrice Harris, CEO of eMed, told Insider.

How does the test work?

To qualify for the BinaxNOW home test, you start by downloading the NAVICA app and filling out a symptom questionnaire. A health professional will review your responses and decide whether to prescribe a test, which will then be delivered to your home.

BinaxNOW Home Test
A woman drops processing fluid on the BinaxNOW test card.

Before opening the package, you have to sign on to a proctored testing session via the NAVICA app. Then, a trained teleworker will walk you through the testing process: swab each nostril five times, count out loud as you deposit six drops of processing fluid on the test card, rub the swab on the test card, and finally close it.

The test card will show one line for a negative result and two lines for a positive, and the virtual proctor can take a look to confirm the results and give advice on next steps.

How accurate is it?

The BinaxNOW test was previously approved and has been tested on 460 people. Compared to RT-PCR tests, it caught 84.6% of cases.

The at-home version of BinaxNOW was only tested on 52 people before the EUA was granted,  with a performance of 91.7% positive agreement and 100% negative agreement.

When will it be available?

Harris said the Abbott/eMed team is working with states to offer tests to residents starting in January, with the goal of delivering 30 million tests in the first quarter of 2021. By the second quarter, they hope to administer an additional 90 million home tests.

How much will it cost?

$25

Lucira's home test will also be available for prescription use in early 2021

Lucira Health's home test was the first fully self-administered COVID-19 test to get an EUA. But since the authorization was granted on November 17, the company hasn't released any updates about when the test will be rolled out.

Compared to other rapid tests, Lucira's is fairly accurate but a bit pricier and slower than its at-home competitors. It also looks different from the Ellume and BinaxNOW tests.

How does the test work?

After taking a thorough nasal swab, the patient is meant to stir the swab in a vial of processing fluid. Rather than dropping the fluid on a separate analyzer card, you can place the whole vial into a battery-operated test unit. 

The test unit's indicator light will switch from "ready" to "done" within 30 minutes, and a separate light will tell you if you are positive or negative for COVID-19.

How accurate is it?

The Lucira test caught 94% of positive cases compared to a RT-PCR test, based on a clinical trial of 100 people. Excluding samples with very low levels of virus that possibly no longer reflected active infection, Lucira achieved 100% positive agreement.

When will it be available?

According to Lucira's website, the company hopes to make the test available in the next few months.

How much will it cost?

Target price: $50

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