New COVID-19 test available in Massachusetts, allows patients to self-swab


WESTPORT, Mass. (WPRI) ─ Woonsocket-based CVS Health has rolled out a new COVID-19 testing method that the company plans to eventually deploy nationwide.

The new test is available by appointment only at 51 CVS pharmacies across five states, nine of which are located in Massachusetts.

CVS hopes that since the new test is self-administered, it will be less painful for patients.

The new test allows the patient to swab their own nasal passages while inside their vehicle before returning it to the pharmacy, where it will then be shipped to a lab for processing.

Test results should be available within two-to-four days, which is significantly longer than the ID NOW tests by Abbott Laboratories, which are being used by CVS Health at the rapid-testing site the company set up in the Twin River parking lot in Lincoln.

Despite the quick turnaround, however, the ID NOW tests are under scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a study out of New York University raised concerns about the test’s accuracy.

The NYU study found that even though the Abbott tests produce results in as little as 15 minutes, they also missed one out of every three positive samples.

“They are looking specifically at accuracy issues and investigating whether they could be due to the types of swaps used, or the viral transport media, which is the material used to transport the specimen safely,” Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said.

Earlier this week, Alexander-Scott said that while the results from ID NOW tests are more reliable when the patient is symptomatic, she urges anyone with symptoms who does test negative to self-quarantine as if they had tested positive.

“These studies help reinforce that, particularly if you have people without symptoms who are getting tested,” she said. “Regardless of the type of test, if someone has symptoms and has a negative result, we are saying still stay home if you’re ill — continue to do the same kind of isolation that would be required whether it’s the flu or COVID-19 or a cold.”

The R.I. Department of Health disclosed Thursday that 28,231 ID NOW tests have been conducted at Twin River so far, and 3,188 of those have come back positive, or roughly 11%.

The ID NOW tests done at Twin River account for roughly a quarter of all the COVID-19 tests conducted in Rhode Island since the crisis began.

CVS Health says it expects to have 1,000 drive-thru locations open by the end of the month with a goal of processing 1.5 million tests per day.

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