At-home COVID tests

For the past few months, I’ve been using the at-home COVID test that my workplace provided to employees. It’s called Cue Health.

It’s not a PCR test, but it’s apparently roughly as accurate as PCR; like PCR, this is a NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test), which looks for and amplifies the virus’s RNA. It therefore detects smaller amounts of the virus than a rapid antigen test (like BinaxNOW), which doesn’t amplify anything.

And the Cue Health test gives results at home in about 20 minutes, like a rapid antigen test, whereas PCR requires special equipment and more time.

And Cue Health has recently been made available to the general public. (At least in the US; not sure about elsewhere.)

But there’s one big drawback to the Cue Health test, compared to rapid antigen tests: the price.

In the US, you can buy rapid antigen tests in stores for roughly $10 per test (usually in packs of two tests). (Apparently they’re a whole lot less expensive in some other countries.)

But the Cue Reader analyzer unit costs $250, and each test costs $75. (Sold in packs of 3 or 10 tests.)

You can get bulk discounts. For example, you can buy the Reader plus a ten-pack of tests for $950 (5% off of the regular price). Or you can get a subscription to the Cue+ service for $50/month, which gets you a variety of discounts; you can get the Reader plus ten tests for the $600 of a 12-month subscription (and then you can buy more tests for $60 apiece). But even with a discount, these tests are a lot more expensive than the rapid antigen tests.

The Cue tests are significantly less expensive than PCR tests, and much faster, and roughly as accurate, so if you’re getting a lot of PCR tests and you have to pay for them yourself, Cue seems like a win all around.

But for people for whom $10/test for a rapid antigen test is already a barrier, Cue is super-unaffordable.

For lots more info, see the Cue website.

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