COVID-19 testing

Janitors, custodians and housekeepers have been disinfecting high-touch surfaces even more than usual lately, as the worldwide pandemic has customers and patients calling for better protections from germs. Now, people can test those surfaces to see if they are in fact positive for COVID-19.

San Francisco-based Phylagen say its kits of swabs and solution can determine whether or not COVID-19 was present on a surface at the time of the test, reports NBC News and Today.

To put the product to the test, NBC News had reporters and producers go through New York City, California, Florida and a few other states collecting samples from surfaces such as handrails, elevator buttons, door handles and high-traffic places such as subway stations, public restrooms and stores.  

The results, which were provided within 48 hours of delivering the samples, are interesting. Nearly 20 percent of the samples taken in Miami tested positive for COVID-19. Surfaces that tested positive for COVID-19 in the city included elevators, a garbage chute handle, ATM and restaurant table cloth.

Two of the samples taken in New York tested positive — one from a grocery cart handle and the other a self-serve bread bin. All swabs taken in Pennsylvania and New Jersey came back negative, as did those taken from a gas pump, bus seat and elevator button in California. 

In total, six percent of the samples came back positive.

The purpose of these swab test is to determine whether a person was in a space while positive for COVID-19. Phylagen says the tests could be especially useful in schools, nursing homes, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

One expert told NBC News that the swab testing is limited because it can’t tell if the virus was dead or alive when it was taken and it cannot detect how much of the virus was present.

Either way, it’s fair to assume these kits might not yet be ready for widespread use. That’s because a 10-pack of the swabs cost $400.