Back in October 2020 I wrote this post: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The only way I see the travel industry bouncing back from this nightmare of a pandemic (besides finding a vaccine or cure, which seems to be many months, if not years, away) is by offering widespread, rapid, accurate, COVID-19 testing whereby people can get tested just before they enter airports, airplanes, hotels, cruise ships, trains, etc.
Airlines and airports know that this is their golden ticket, which is why they’ve been scrambling to partner with health companies to offer testing, especially when it comes to flights to Hawaii since the islands and many other destinations require proof of a negative reading within 72 hours prior to the final leg of departure. Otherwise, they have a strict 14-day quarantine, which most travelers don’t want to do or can’t afford to do, either financially or time-wise. It’s just not feasible.
United Airlines was the first to announce testing on flights out of San Francisco International (SFO). The following day, other airlines started offering testing around the country. Here’s the list of airlines offering COVID-19 testing and how much they charge.
If you read the above article, you have quickly figured out one of the deterrents about these polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests is that they’re not cheap. Another challenge facing travelers is getting test results in sufficient time. I have many friends who want to travel but aren’t because they can’t get their test results back in time for their destination to accept them as being valid. FYI: Each place is different so do your research on the requirements, not only how much time you have but which health care provider or test is accepted because not all are.
The good news is, as my buddy Gary Leff pointed out this morning, that “we have to be making progress when Costco.com is now selling a saliva PCR test online that promises results returned in 24-72 hours. That’s the range needed for many destinations (though the outer bound plus time to get the sample to the lab could run into a problem for other destinations as well). And it’s not the awful nasal swab, either.”
So, a new option for travelers who need to get a COVID-19 test is by either going to Costco or shopping online at Costco.com and getting their COVID-19 Saliva PCR Test Kit, Redeemed by AZOVA. It’s not cheap at $116.99. There’s a two-minute instructional video on their page, which basically shows you the kit they send you in the mail. You fill out the form, wash your hands and spit into a vial, then send it back. The kit comes with a return label and box that needs to be dropped off at UPS (preferably not on weekends since it will delay your results). NOTE: This item is only available online at Costco.com and is currently not available in PA, NV or MD.
If you are flying, use basic safety measures like washing your hands frequently, wiping down your personal space, wearing a mask and keeping your distance. I also learned yesterday from a doctor to wear a face shield or goggles for boarding and deplaning.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you live in the Bay Area or are passing through, the Oakland International Airport offers free COVID-19 testing for passengers traveling to Hawaii. Click here to learn more.
UPDATE (October 24, 2020): I just called into Leo Laporte’s The Tech Guy and after mentioning this a doctor commented in the chat room that “This is a more reliable test for the same cost and same turn around. It’s a nasal swab but not a brain probe.” ~ Dr Mom_Grandma
UPDATE (November 25, 2020): Another home testing kit option which just received FDA-authorization is the empowerDX at-home. It’s a PCR test but mid-nasal (and painless).and can be easily ordered online. Results are provided within 48 hours and cost $89 out of pocket (the cheapest on the at-home market) and is slated to be covered by insurance in the very near future. FYI: According to their PR team “empowerDX is owned by Eurofins, a global testing leader which is publicly traded on the Paris stock exchange.”
UPDATE (March 24, 2021): Walgreens now offers at-home COVID saliva test offering travelers a new option. Walgreens has partnered with Clinical Reference Laboratory (CRL), one of the largest privately held clinical testing laboratories in the U.S. and the FDA-authorized CRL Rapid Response COVID-19 Saliva Test. It’s now available through Walgreens and sold under CRL’s HealthConfirm brand. “The COVID-19 Saliva Test is non-invasive and highly accurate, offering consumers the convenience of self-collecting the test right in their homes without supervision.”
“Once the kit arrives, individuals register their test online, deposit a sample of their saliva in the provided collection vial and then drop the sample off using the prepaid FedEx Priority Overnight shipping package at their local FedEx locations. Results are typically available within 24-48 hours of receipt at the lab through a secure portal and are also delivered directly to individuals’ mobile phone via text or landline by voice message. For those who test positive, an independent telemedicine provider will reach out to provide critical next steps including the option to speak with a licensed physician. The test costs $119 per kit.”