Meet the new Pixel: It’s not a phone, it’s a coronavirus test

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We all want to know our individual COVID-19 status. But most of us aren’t sure what we’re testing for, where to get tested, who should get tested and who pays for testing.

Medical lab giant LabCorp recently began offering a COVID-19 home test kit called Pixel in all 50 states. The process is simple enough: You run a swab around the inside of your nose and then send it to LabCorp in an included overnight specimen container. 

“This is the type of test for COVID-19 that is specifically looking for the virus in a specimen,” said Dr. Brian Caveney, president of diagnostics at LabCorp. “We look for the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 which lets us know you had indeed had it in your nose when you did the swab and therefore you have COVID-19.”

Test results are released to you via a secure web portal, as well as being sent to the health provider who initially authorized you to get the home test. Most private insurance carriers cover the test, and LabCorp said there is also broad payment support for those who do not have health insurance, via federal emergency health funding.

The volume of COVID-19 testing nationwide has been sapping the medical system’s resources, and LabCorp’s testing capacity isn’t immune to that.

The company said it is currently processing 130,000 coronavirus tests per day from multiple sources, a volume it plans to scale to 150,000 by the end of July. For now, the intended one- to two-day turnaround time for test results has stretched to four to six days. 

The Pixel test itself checks for active infection. Testing for antibodies and possible immunity to the coronavirus is a separate issue.

“In most cases [infection] means that the virus is still alive and able to be replicate and [you can] transmit it to other people,” said Caveney. The Pixel test “does not tell you whether or not you have antibodies or are immune to getting it again. Those are different kinds of tests.”

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