Yesterday I wrote about how rapid testing at scale could allow return to normal life. Many jurisdictions only accept lab-confirmed PCR tests, but those are highly limited in volume and results can take time to turn around.
While lab-confirmed tests may be the most accurate, processing millions of tests that are merely highly accurate is a better solution. It’s almost useless to learn that a subset of people who can be tested did or didn’t have the virus several days in the past, while learning the probable results of most people every day could limit spread of the virus to near-zero.
There are two new important testing developments in travel today, both United Airlines announcement. United is partnering to provide Covid testing for its San Francisco – Hawaii flights. They’re providing testing, and they’ve worked with Hawaii to accept an Abbott rapid test rather than just a PCR test.
- Hawaii will allow visitors with a negative Covid test to avoid 14 day quarantine on arrival starting October 15 and United is launching a testing program to coincide with this.
- United will offer a 15 minute Abbott ID NOW test, provided by GoHealth Urgent Care, to passengers flying San Francisco – Hawaii. ($250)
- They will also offer a mail-in test that they recommend requesting 10 days prior to trip and providing sample 72 hours ahead of time. ($80)
United will email customers traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii an invitation to purchase their physician-ordered Color self-collection kit at least 10 days ahead of their departure, collect their own samples at home 72 hours prior to their departure and return their test via overnight mail or to a drop box at SFO.
Color then processes those tests at their local, CLIA-certified COVID-19 testing laboratory and returns results via text and/or email within 24-48 hours. Color’s self-collection kit includes a plastic collection tube, a non-invasive nasal swab and instructions on how to properly collect a specimen.
United Airlines Onsite Testing at SFO, Credit: United Airlines
United is the first major U.S. airline to offer Covid testing. And they’ve worked with Hawaii officials so that they will accept the rapid 15 minute test and not just a PCR test.
Customers who want to confirm their ability to travel prior to arrival at the airport can take a traditional test, and the airline suggests that turnaround can be done in time though of course if it isn’t they still have the 15 minute testing on arrival option.
The airline plans to expand testing to other airports and for travel to other destinations “later this year.”
The combination of self-collected testing with results in 72 hours (meeting the requirements of most destinations) and convincing Hawaii to accept a rapid test is a real advance in bringing travel back to normal. A next step would be requiring passengers to have taken one test or the other to fly, and returning a negative result, because that would give significant confidence to passengers to return to travel.