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Everlywell's FDA-authorized COVID-19 test kit launches

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Everlywell just announced that its FDA-authorized COVID-19 test home kit is now available for purchase. Public Health Physician Expert & Everlywell Adviser Dr. Charlene Brown joins Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani and Akiko Fujita to discuss, along with the latest spike of COVID-19 cases in some states.

Video Transcript

- Spikes in coronavirus cases are continuing to weigh on the market as well. We've seen a huge spike in Texas, hitting a new daily high in terms of the cases on Wednesday. Over in Arizona, there are reports of ICUs being overwhelmed, capacity over in Phoenix now operating at 90%. Let's bring in Dr. Sharlene Brown. She's a public health physician expert as well as an Everly advisor. She was also formerly at the FDA as a medical officer in the division of antivirals. We've also got Anjalee Khemlani joining in on the conversation.

Dr. Brown, let-- let's start by those huge spikes in cases we've seen so far, certainly a troubling development. But how should we be viewing this? Is this an extension of the first wave that started back in March? Or is the second wave that many had feared?

CHARLENE BROWN: Happy to be here. I'd like to say that we can't call it an extension of a first wave or a second wave because each jurisdiction, each area, is different. In some cases, this huge surge in cases is due to an increased availability of testing. In other cases it's due to the enjoyment and activities people had over the Memorial Day weekend. And in other cases, it's due to the reopening. But there's not a single second wave. It varies by jurisdiction. And there are many factors to consider.

- So having said that, how do the-- the approaches differ now? You know, it seemed like back in March when we had this huge wave, we had the shutdowns, you know, we had a lot of the states moving forward on that with a complete closure. Now what we're-- you're hearing, whether it's from the governor of Texas or Arizona, is that we're just not going to shut down the economies. That's not to be expected. Are we going to see a more fragmented approach now?

CHARLENE BROWN: I do think the states are taking very different approaches and reopening at different times. What everyone needs to look at is the amount of testing coverage that's available, the rates of transmission, the rates of hospitalization. And each jurisdiction is going to make a different decision. But what individual consumers need to remember is that just because your community is reopening, doesn't mean that you have to participate. You need to look at your own individual risk, the risk to people around you, and figure out what's essential for you to engage in, and stay home as much as possible.

The virus hasn't changed. We're changing.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Anjalee here. So looking at what- what's going on in the testing sphere, obviously those tests are, you know, being attributed to the higher accounts. But as well, the FDA-- the FDA has been approving more at-home and point-of-care tests which brings in to the question of accuracy. I know there have been studies about mid-nasal swabs and how is that-- how accurate, or even lower nasal swabs, and how accurate those are. But, what are your thoughts on just-- increase and identify cases as well as hit some of the more vulnerable population?

CHARLENE BROWN: I welcome the advent of at-home collection test kits for COVID-19. The FDA has issued a bunch of emergency use authorizations. And early studies show that when people do their own nasal-- own swab of their nose, the lower part of their nose, they actually get the same type of results as when a professional does it. And so there will always be people who don't go to the health system for testing, either because they're too busy, they're afraid. There are a million reasons.

But having the option and the availability of at-home collection for testing and being able to get your diagnosis through telemedicine with a-- with a licensed physician in the US is a huge step forward for HIV-- sorry, for COVID-19 testing.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Looking at that, though, we know that there are still some obstacles, whether it is insurance coverage or just the idea that some of these tests are still not going to be either reaching some of these communities that are in need. So you know, as we're talking about, especially health inequities, how can we overcome these so that it truly is available to everyone?

CHARLENE BROWN: Well the beauty-- I'm based here in DC and there's actually free testing available during certain hours, just walk up testing. And so the more the different municipalities and states make testing available that's free to everyone, the more that we'll be able to get a sense of what the actual community prevalence of COVID-19 is. The actual collection test kits, for the most part, are-- are expensive. But for those that can afford it, it's a huge opportunity to be able to figure out your own status and get guidance and discussion with a physician in a very short time period.

- Dr. Brown, one of the things we've seen a huge improvement on over the last several months is contact tracing. And I want to get back to what you said earlier because you said part of the spike that we're seeing is from Memorial Day activities. Not all of them, but just some of them. What about from the huge protests that we've seen? I know that's been a big concern. How long will it be until we get a real gauge of how significant that was in increasing the number of infections?

CHARLENE BROWN: That's a great question. It's still early. So the protests have been going on for days and they get bigger and bigger and bigger. It was just this past Sunday that there were 200,000 people on the National Mall protesting. So we know that the virus incubates over a three- to 14-day period. People don't necessarily show symptoms right away. We won't know for a little bit of time yet what impact the protests have had.

- And so, you know, what-- what aims that move that you think-- a lot of states, especially local officials should-- should now be focused on? You know, I've heard that look, even if the economies have reopened, because people are wearing masks, the virus may not spread in the way that it-- it used to. Because there is more PPP, or PPE available. You know, hospitals are better equipped. How do you think officials approach this as they look-- as they look at the uptick in numbers?

CHARLENE BROWN: Well this is a virus unlike any in-- any of our lifetimes. It is more contagious than any other virus. It is not-- it is not business as usual. Having a mask is not enough. Social distancing is literally the most important thing that people can do to keep themselves and others safe. You mentioned the mask. I would also mention handwashing. And I think that local officials will-- will consider their particular transmission dynamics in their community and make decisions as the cases surge or decline that match what's best for their population.

But each individual really has to take care of themselves. If your-- if you are immunocompromised, if you are older, if you are vulnerable in some way, this-- this may be the time to be very cautious [INAUDIBLE] water parks are open.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Doctor, Anjalee here. I know that, going back to the testing for a quick second, with that at home collection, such as the FDA approval for Everlywell as well as QHealth recently, we know that there is going to be more use of swabs. So how does that pressure the system? Are we better off now in terms of production or are we going to potentially see shortages?

CHARLENE BROWN: Shortages of test kits?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Test kits and swabs.

CHARLENE BROWN: Yes. OK. So I do think that our capacity to manufacture and distribute test kits, both to the health care system, as well as through at home collection methods, has-- has shifted dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. We may still see shortages because we don't know how the-- how the disease is going to manifest in coming weeks and months whether-- we also don't know if consumers will have an es-- how much their demands will increase. But I don't-- I don't think at home collection is going to pressure the system in a negative way.

I think it will actually enhance our ability to do effective public health.

- Dr. Charlene Brown, a public health physician expert. Appreciate your insight today.

CHARLENE BROWN: Thank you so much for having me.