- XpresCheck rapid COVID tests began at JFK and Liberty airports Wednesday
- The company hopes to expand nationwide
- The test delivers results in 13 minutes
The airline industry, devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, is about to get a boost: Health and wellness company XpresSpa Group Inc. began conducting rapid COVID-19 testing at Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey, with plans to expand the program nationwide.
With the pandemic still raging across the United States, Americans have been reluctant to get on airplanes, with the total number of passengers averaging about 25% of last year’s levels.
More than 7.5 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus and more than 211,000 have died from COVID-19.
Though the virus doesn’t spread easily on flights because of air circulation systems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns exposure to people in close quarters and frequently touched services put travelers at increased risk. The CDC estimated last month 11,000 people potentially had been exposed to the virus on flights.
XpresSpa began performing its ExpresCheck rapid COVID-19 tests Wednesday, expanding its polymerase chain reaction and blood antibody testing programs.
“We believe rapid COVID-19 testing at airports can play a major role in slowing the virus spread and decreasing the risk of new community outbreaks linked to travel as cases continue to rise throughout many states,” XpresSpa CEO Doug Satzman said in a press release.
He added: “Having a rapid test inside the airport immediately upon travel could also eliminate the need for a full 14-day quarantine in states where that applies.”
The tests would be voluntary for both travelers and airport workers. The company currently is focusing on airline employees and those who are showing COVID-like symptoms.
The test uses Abbott’s portable rapid molecular ID Now COVID test, which delivers results in 13 minutes. The test, however, has yet to gain full Food and Drug Administration approval although it has been cleared for emergency use, and has been criticized for false negatives, which are possible until an infection has reached its height and depending on how the test is performed.
Even with rapid COVID-19 tests available, travelers would still need to wear masks and practice social distancing.