Big-box wholesaler Costco startled some consumers Friday with an email that included a coronavirus test as a featured item.
Nestled between offers for a Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee and Espresso Maker and some portable generators was an ad for self-administered COVID-19 saliva PCR Test kits.
Costco is offering -- online only -- two versions of P23 Labs' At-Home COVID-19 Test Collection Kit, which are administered by Azova, a "comprehensive digital health platform for pharmacies, physicians, patients and payers," according to a press release posted by BusinessWire distributed by the Associated Press. Costco's tests are not available in Pennsylvania, Nevada or Maryland.
The cheaper Costco option ($129.99) is self-administered, with results returned "online through the HIPAA-secure AZOVA app" 24-72 hours after the lab gets the test. For 10 dollars more, Costco members get the same product -- but can have the self-administration of the test monitored by a video observer, and results will be available 24-48 hours after the test arrives at the lab.
Costo has a video online showing how to take the test. Other than online registration and filling out forms, mostly all testers have to do is spit into a "saliva-collection device" -- a small tube -- and seal it up.
"PCR Tests are the most accurate tests on the market," the digital circular instructs shoppers -- a claim backed up by a San Diego County Health Department spokesman -- adding that purchasers can test for the infection at home "without a painful nasal swab."
As with all purchases, caveat emptor may apply here as well: The Harvard Medical School's blog states that "a [PCR] test using a deep nasal swab is usually the best option, because it will have fewer false-negative results than other diagnostic tests or samples from throat swabs or saliva" and adds that "false negatives — that is, a test that says you don’t have the virus when you actually do have the virus — may occur."
NBC 7 reached out to the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency about the Costco tests and were told that it didn’t “know enough about the Costco product to comment. However, it is important that all organizations that are doing testing have systems in place to report the results, which is a requirement of local and state health orders.”
A quick online check revealed that Costco competitors Walmart or Target were not offering similar products.
Both versions of the AZOVA test are eligible for flexible medical spending accounts, according to Costco.