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VERIFY: COVID-19 test kits are being mailed to random homes. Are they legitimate?

Joshua Alvarez reached out to KGW to find out whether the coronavirus test kit he randomly received in the mail was real or a scam.

PORTLAND, Oregon — A man received an at-home coronavirus test kit in the mail this past weekend, and given the challenges we're seeing with people trying to get COVID-19 tests, he said it felt off to get a test randomly in the mail. 

So, Joshua Alvarez from West Salem reached out to KGW to find out whether the package was legitimate or not.

"I went out to our mailbox and there was a package and I hadn't ordered anything and it wasn't even addressed to my name - it just said 'to household' and it had our address with our apartment number and I opened it up and it was a COVID-19 test," Alvarez said.

Also inside the package was a letter from Georgia-based Emory University.

"It’s saying if we do this COVID test and send it back in, they’ll give you a gift card," Alvarez said. "I haven’t heard about this anywhere."

"There's so many scams out there, it's crazy to me. This was just too good to be true to get a COVID-19 test in the mail when people are having trouble getting tested as is. How am I getting a test in the mail when there’s people lining up that can’t even get a test?" Alvarez said.

Credit: Joshua Alvarez

But we can Verify: the testing kits are not a scam.

Our sources for this story are Emory University Associate Professor Dr. Aaron Siegler and Vancouver-based Molecular Testing Labs Business Development Director James York.

Emory University is conducting a study called COVIDVu, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Siegler, one of the primary investigators, said information from the study will guide public health efforts.

"The goal of this study - which is NIH-funded - is to really understand the levels of infection in the United States and give everyone an equal opportunity to participate so we can get a representative sample throughout the country," Siegler said. 

Tens of thousands of randomly chosen households across the country will get a package with an at-home nasal swab test and blood spot antibody test kits, as well as a questionnaire to fill out.

Participants are asked to send samples back to Molecular Testing Labs.

"We actually manufacture our own sample collection kits, and that is the only thing we manufacture, so it does not cut into anybody's supply chain," York told KGW.

COVIDVu is voluntary and researchers say information and results are confidential. The study's goals are:

  • Estimate the number of American adults with the virus or who've recovered from it.
  • Improve understanding of COVID-19 infection and how it impacts different demographic and geographic groups.
  • Monitor future levels of the disease.

Learn more about COVIDVu in this online FAQ section.

Do you have something you want us to Verify? Let us know. Email us at Verify@kgw.com.