When the coronavirus pandemic first broke out, getting tested for COVID-19 was extremely difficult. Not only were many sick people denied tests early on, but even months into the pandemic, urgent care centers would routinely experience wraparound lines during periods of high case numbers as patients attempted to determine whether their sniffles were a simple cold or a more serious virus.
But thankfully, coronavirus testing has come a long way and is becoming an easier thing to come by. Some commercial landlords, in fact, are already rolling out testing programs to tenants in an effort to bring workers back to the office more safely. And now, the FDA has authorized its first at-home rapid COVID-19 test. The test kits are available at pharmacies and do not require a prescription. And they could be a real game changer.
A way out of the pandemic?
The FDA has approved Abbott Laboratories' (NYSE: ABT) BinaxNOW at-home test and Quidel's (NASDAQ: QDEL) QuickVue home kit. Both tests are antigen tests, which are said to be less sensitive than PCR tests. However, the benefit of antigen tests is that they deliver rapid results and are capable of picking up both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.
In fact, the BinaxNOW tests are sold in packs of two, so users have the option to test themselves twice within a short time frame if they want to be extra cautious. Furthermore, at a $24 price point for the BinaxNOW kit, money does not have to be a deterrent to getting tested.
Of course, the hope is that at-home testing, combined with a more robust rollout of coronavirus vaccines, will be enough to help the U.S. escape the pandemic in due time. And once that happens, real estate investors have a lot to gain.
For the better part of the past year, office buildings have largely sat vacant as employees have continued to work remotely due to safety concerns. But the option to test at home before coming into the office could change all that.
Similarly, there have been capacity limits imposed on restaurants and other businesses due to the health crisis at hand. But if there's now an easy, reliable way to test for COVID-19 before leaving the house, it opens the door to fewer restrictions.
The result? Restaurants and other local businesses may be better positioned to overcome the financial blow the pandemic has already dealt them and avoid closures. That, too, would be a good thing for commercial landlords who don't want to grapple with widespread vacancies.
At-home test kits could benefit the travel industry, too. If people are able to confirm their COVID-19-free status before checking into a hotel or boarding a plane, travel could become a much safer prospect.
Of course, these at-home tests have their limitations. For one thing, they're not foolproof. Additionally, it can take several days for a test to detect COVID-19 infection, and some people might test prematurely and get a negative result when they are, in fact, infected. But still, at-home test kits get the public one step closer to emerging from the pandemic, and that alone is reason enough to celebrate the fact they've hit the market.