Trump Administration Announces Plan to Ship 150 Million Rapid COVID-19 Tests to States

On September 28, 2020, President Trump announced a plan to distribute 150 million rapid coronavirus tests purchased by the federal government to states, tribes, and other jurisdictions in the coming months.

Experts praised the news as a welcome endorsement of the importance of rapid and widely available testing while the nation continues to struggle in its fight to rein in the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 204,000 people in the United States.

Rapid tests, which don’t need to be routed through labs, have been proposed as an appealing alternative to fill that gap, especially if given frequently enough to catch infections early.

The tests that are to be distributed by the federal government, a product called BinaxNOW manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, do not require specialized equipment and can yield results within 15 minutes, based on a quick and relatively painless swab that shallowly samples the nostrils. Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, demonstrated the administration of one of the credit-card-sized tests from a lectern in the White House Rose Garden.

Governors of some states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, announced on Twitter just before Trump’s news conference that they expected to receive thousands of the tests within the coming weeks and millions by year’s end. Some 6.5 million of those tests would ship this week, said Giroir, adding that they could be used in settings such as doctor’s offices or pharmacies.

The tests, which the Food and Drug Administration gave an emergency greenlight in August, are cleared only for use in people with symptoms of COVID-19 and must be administered by, or in the presence of, a trained health care professional. Such tests are intended for use, according to Abbott, within the first 7 days of when a person starts to feel ill.

The test is also designed to look for antigens, or pieces of coronavirus proteins. Such tests tend to be less accurate than laboratory tests, most of which rely on a time-intensive but very reliable technique called polymerase chain reaction.

Trump said some of the tests would be distributed first to vulnerable populations. Among these groups will be those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as those at historically Black colleges and universities and tribal nation colleges. Black, Latino, Native, and Indigenous people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

Earlier on Monday, the World Health Organization announced a global partnership to make 120 million rapid coronavirus tests available to low- and middle-income countries, including a $50 million commitment from the Global Fund.

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