The FDA has issued emergency approval for a new rapid COVID test that is inexpensive and can be widely distributed. Experts are hopeful this can mean more people can get answers quickly and return to normal activities.
Doctors are calling it a "game-changer." Abbott Labs has announced a new rapid COVID-test which is portable, the size of a credit card. It's cheap, about $5, and it returns results in just 15 minutes.
An app, then allows you to display your test results for work or school.
"BinaxNOW now and the Navica app give us a rapid, reliable, affordable test at massive scale and a digital health tool that will help us more safely get back to daily life," says John Hackett Jr. of Abbott Laboratories.
"We've been asking for this for a long time," says Dr. Caesar Djavaherian, co-founder and medical director of Carbon Health.
Carbon has 25 primary and urgent care clinics nationwide, 10 of them in California.
They have been early adopters of Abbott technology. But their first rapid test required a tabletop machine to get results.
"The machine itself is cumbersome and it's expensive. And not all healthcare providers have the machine. And the test cartridges are just much much more expensive than this antigen test, which is more like a pregnancy test," says Djavaherian.
SFO had set up to use that earlier rapid test too for flight crews heading on the job.
But doctors envision this new more portable test having even wider applications.
"You can imagine deploying it in schools or in movie theaters before people go in. The one difference, the one caveat is the FDA is still recommending that your doctor run the swab and run the test," said Djavaherian.
There's another caveat too: so far the FDA has only recommended this test for people with active symptoms.
Doctors hope that changes. With wait times for some COVID test results running one to two weeks, they say the more people who can access rapid testing, the better.
"Being able to do an onsite rapid test means you just get back to your normal life faster. The human impact of that is massive," says Djavaherian.
Carbon Health expects to get its first batch of the new portable rapid tests in about two weeks. Abbott plans to ship tens of millions of tests in September, ramping up to 50 million tests a month at the beginning of October.