Several months ago my work started offering at-home covid-19 rapid molecular testing via Cue. Now that it's possible to buy these kits as an individual I wanted to write some about our experience and who it might be a good fit for.

These tests offer sensitivity comparable to PCR in an at-home ~25min timeframe, and if you choose to take the test with a video call you get an official result. The main downside is that they are expensive.

The system is two parts: a reusable reader and disposable cartridges (with nasal swabs).

You connect to the reader with your phone over bluetooth, and there's an app that walks you through all the steps. You can choose to have your test "proctored", in which case you have a video call with Cue to verify your identity and watch that you test correctly. It takes about 25 minutes and to end, with an extra ~10min if proctored. Occasionally a test fails and you need to retake, so there's some risk of twice as long.

In terms of cost, while there are several options it looks to me like if this is worth it for you at all you would choose Cue+ Complete, at $149 + $90/month for 20 annual tests plus $60/test for each additional test (in packs of ten).

That is quite a bit more than the $12/test you'd pay for an antigen test like BinaxNOW, so is this worth the extra cost?

In most cases, I think it isn't. While antigen tests are less sensitive, the cases they miss are generally cases where people are less infectious: lower viral concentration in the sample is correlated with lower viral shedding in general.

The place where I think the Cue is potentially worth it is in interacting with institutions that require a molecular test. For example, it is common for schools and daycares to require that children who have potential covid symptoms stay home pending a negative test. In our experience this means missing two or three days: if you go get a PCR test on the first day you don't get the results in time for the second, and you only sometimes get the results back in time to attend on the third day. With the Cue you get results soon enough that you don't have to miss any days. If your kid missing school/daycare means you missing work, $60/test may actually be a very good deal. Same goes for people in jobs with a similar policy for employees.

In our personal situation, because we already need to have an adult home full-time to watch our infant, it's not that bad if our older kids have to stay home too. And since our older kids are in kindergarten and second grade I don't think it's that bad if they miss a couple days here and there. So I probably wouldn't buy one of these if I needed to spend my own money on it? On the other hand, if missing school/work was more of an issue I think the Cue could potentially be well worth it.

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I'll chime in with my experience, presumably from the same employer.

I and my team at work have found a pretty high rate of failures, in one case a majority of tests failed. Seems like the failure rate is around 30%, sample size of ~8 people, though not sure of how many tests/person. So that $60/test might look more expensive.

Having said that, I really like the Cue tests. More accurate than fast tests, and super convenient. I'm not very price sensitive so for me it's a clear win.

That's a really high rate of failed tests; our household has done ~50, with ~3 failures.

If you talk to customer service, I believe they will replace failed tests for free?