COVID test on the fly? Oakland is the first airport in the country to offer it from vending machines

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Travelers passing through Oakland International Airport during the pandemic can now pick up a COVID-19 test like they would a bag of chips or a pair of headphones.

For about $150, travelers can buy DIY saliva-sampling tests from vending machine kiosks in each terminal.

“We realized that travelers are going through a tough time right now, especially as we all navigate this COVID pandemic,” said Roberto Bernardo, the Oakland airport’s spokesman. “We wanted to give travelers another option for testing.”


Oakland International is the first in the U.S. to sell COVID-19 tests in vending machines, airport officials said.

The sampling kits, from Wellness 4 Humanity, are designed so users can collect saliva samples at home and then mail them for testing. Results come within 48 hours of the shipment being received and are sent to a person’s phone, according to the product website. The cost of shipping and running the molecular test used to detect viral RNA is included in the price.

The kits are intended for people flying into Oakland rather than those about to board a plane, Bernardo said. Like many airports, Oakland International has been offering curbside testing for several months, and travelers can get a last-minute rapid test for $120.

New rules will require passengers boarding international flights to the U.S. to test negative for the coronavirus within the last three days.

Jan. 12, 2021

Many travelers have expressed concern they might have been exposed during a flight, Bernardo said. A test to be used when travelers get home could provide some clarity.

It’s recommended that people wait several days after a potential exposure before get tested because the likelihood of a false negative result decreases as individuals begin to show symptoms.

“If you’re worried about false negatives, you need to give it six or seven days from the time you land to specimen collection,” said George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at UC San Francisco.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently ordered that anyone flying into the U.S. must show a negative coronavirus test result before they get on a plane. The viral test, which detects current infection, must be taken within three days of boarding. The agency also recommends that those who have been abroad get tested again three to five days after arriving and that they stay home for seven days.