How Kroger Plans To Change The Way People Test For COVID-19

While President Joe Biden hopes that we all might have access to COVID-19 vaccines by August 2021, in the six months leading up to that time, access to COVID-19 tests will remain crucial (via The New York Times). And even beyond August, it's likely we may well be living with COVID-19 for the near and distant future. Or, as infection disease epidemiologist Roy Anderson told National Geographic, "It's not something that will just vanish out of the window." This means, for now, COVID-19 tests are still going to be a part of our everyday lives.

The prospect of learning to accept invasive nose swabs as run-of-the-mill might not seem like the best news to come out of 2020. But Kroger is aiming to soften the blow. Someday soon, the supermarket chain hopes you'll be able to stop by your local Kroger, pick up a COVID-19 antigen test, and get results within 15 minutes, all from the comfort of your home (via 13ABC).

You'll need a smartphone for Kroger's COVID-19 antigen test

Kroger's been busy working with healthcare diagnostic company Gauss to develop a test that your smartphone can read. As per a statement released by Kroger, the tests will work similarly to at-home pregnancy tests, and will not require "a laboratory, a telemedicine visit or any specialized electronics." Once approved by the FDA for emergency use, you'll be able to use an encrypted app to follow step-by-step video instructions, collect a nasal swab, wait 15 minutes, and scan your results with your phone. Within seconds, you should know if you've tested positive for COVID-19. If you do choose to use the test, the app will share your results with "appropriate public health agencies" in order to comply with "legal reporting requirements." Gauss reports having already produced 1.5 million tests, and has the capability of producing the an additional 30 million per month. 

Kroger's smartphone-enabled test sounds similar to that which the Australian biotech company Ellume has been developing for use in the United States. As per Extreme Tech, Ellume's smartphone-enabled test works by "binding special fluorescent chemicals to the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid — the external shell of the virus particle." The smartphone reads the "fluorescent illumination" and in accordance with its intensity, determines positive or negative results. 

If approved, Kroger's at-home rapid antigen test would be available at 2,200 pharmacies nationwide as well as online through Kroger.