It was announced by President Trump in a White House media briefing that his government has decided to distribute recently procured 150 million coronavirus testing kits for rapid diagnosis and these kits will be distributed across the country.
President @realDonaldTrump announced that 50 million of the new, rapid Coronavirus tests will go to facilities & institutions that serve the most vulnerable. Another 100 million will support efforts to reopen our economy & schools.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 29, 2020
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 28, 2020
While this move was welcomed by democrats and republicans alike, health experts have raised some concerns regarding the kits introduced by Abbott citing their limitations.
Good news: @realDonaldTrump & his admin will distribute 150M rapid, 15-minute #COVID19 tests to states over the next few weeks. This is great for K-12 schools, nursing homes & assisted living facilities & will help us to track the virus & keep folks safer as we head into winter.
— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) September 29, 2020
President Trump formally announced a plan to disperse the 150 million rapid coronavirus tests first promoted by the White House in August. “The difference between August and now is just that they had to be assembled,” says Admiral Brett Giroir, director of US coronavirus testing. pic.twitter.com/upPoDjlyvl
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) September 29, 2020
According to experts, it is essential to increase the number and scope of coronavirus tests so that this pandemic can be brought under control in U.S which has so for claimed more than 200,000 lives and continues to pose a mega threat to the people residing in U.S more than in any other country.
Trump government is trying to augment the testing regime in country by the introduction of Abbott’s rapid testing kits but the health experts fear that the number of testing already being conducted in the country is nowhere near the minimum target to achieve better control of the pandemic. Experts have stated that the induction of these new kits will not create a significant difference.
To date, the collective coronavirus testing of different kinds has surpassed a hundred million marker and the daily test figure has reached to 0.85 million tests per day. These seemingly impressive numbers are still not sufficient as according to health experts this number should be in millions of tests per day range if we want to get a realistic picture of how far the virus has spread and other dynamics related to the epidemic. This amount of testing is not only limited to coronavirus as this is the amount of testing needed to assess and control any other epidemic as well.
The routine coronavirus test which is currently used in the entire planet is by PCR which although accurate is a relatively time taking test as its supplies are expensive and its results take hours to yield any conclusive remarks about the sample. This is where the rapid testing is being eyes as a potential candidate for rapid and accurate testing of coronavirus patients for early diagnosis to curb the spread of virus.
Coronavirus testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir demonstrates a rapid point-of-care coronavirus test, with results available in about 15 minutes. These tests are a "game-changer" and are being distributed to states as we speak thanks to President Trump's Operation Warp Speed. pic.twitter.com/4exkX9loox
— Jake Schneider (@jacobkschneider) September 28, 2020
Binax NOW rapid test kits have been introduced by Abbott Labs and do not require PCR in order to yield result. The sample is taken from a painless swab of nostrils and then the kit can ascertain the result in 15 minutes without the use of any specialized machine such as a PCR.
Some states are already expecting a few hundred thousand doses and are expecting that the number of these doses may increase significantly in the next few days as more kits are procured and distributed throughout the country. The government has announced that as much as 6.5 million kits will be shipped in the first batch which will be majorly headed towards clinics and medicine stores.
I just received word from the @WhiteHouse that Connecticut will be awarded tens of thousands of rapid #COVID19 tests—and roughly a million in total by the end of the year. This will further enhance our ability to be a leader in testing nationwide.
— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) September 28, 2020
NEW: Following discussions over the weekend with the @WhiteHouse about rapid-testing resources for New Jersey, we’ve secured 2.6 million BinaxNOW rapid tests – significantly scaling up our testing capabilities.
The first 170,000 tests will come within the next two weeks.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) September 28, 2020
It is worth noting that FDA has granted emergency approval to Abbott’s rapid testing kits with the condition that these kits will be only administered by an expert to a patient who is symptomatic for Covid-19. The ideal time window for this kit is within seven days from the time a person starts showing symptoms.
At the time of emergency approval, the kits were only shown to effectively test the symptomatic patients while the asymptomatic patients were not tested and therefore health professionals are still unaware of the efficiency of these kits in asymptomatic patients.
Therefore, healthcare professionals are reluctant to use such tests for diagnosis of Covid-19 in asymptomatic patients and they would prefer a testing mechanism which has been tried and tested for asymptomatic patients as well such as PCR. Abbott claims that their rapid testing kits are as effective as PCR given that they are used in the first seven days since the symptoms start to appear, but their efficacy of kits rapidly falls short of its intended goal, as more days pass.
False negatives can be a problem if the testing is scarce, but some experts argue that mass testing on after every few days can help in overcoming the shortcomings of these kits. If the government is able to chalk out the logistics of such a massive distribution chain even, then the experts are of the opinion that that the testing approach needs to be rapidly growing in numbers while being cautious of obvious shortcomings of these tests.