Shares of Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (NYSE:LH) headed higher Tuesday on news that the FDA has granted emergency use authorization for its at-home test kit for COVID-19.

The test kit includes a nasal swab that a person can use to take their own sample, which they then mail to LabCorp for processing. Patients in most states will be able to buy the test kit online from the company's online portal, but first, they will need an order from a healthcare professional, which they can get after filling out a questionnaire. The ability to self-administer the test allows people to avoid the risk of transmitting the virus at test sites, and reduces the demand for personal protective equipment for clinicians.

Cotton swap being put in a test tube labelled "Coronavirus"

Image source: Getty Images.

LabCorp said that quantities of the test kit are limited now, so they are initially making them available only to healthcare workers and first responders who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who are symptomatic. As more are manufactured, the company intends to make the kits available broadly to consumers in the coming weeks.

LabCorp launched a molecular test for COVID-19 based on its polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology on March 5 and has since ramped up its capacity such that it can now process 20,000 of the tests per day. Up till now, specimens for those tests had to be collected at healthcare facilities, but the FDA order has granted temporary permission for specimen collection to take place at home with a doctor's order even though the kit hasn't been formally approved.