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Could Rapid Coronavirus Testing Help Life Return To Normal?

A sign displays a new rapid coronavirus test on the new Abbott ID Now machine at a ProHEALTH center in Brooklyn on August 27, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A sign displays a new rapid coronavirus test on the new Abbott ID Now machine at a ProHEALTH center in Brooklyn on August 27, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

An announcement from the White House could expand rapid COVID-19 testing significantly as President Trump boasts about U.S. testing capacity. Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina lays out the testing failures so far and how rapid tests could help get our lives back to normal in the pandemic.


Dr. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology and assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Associate medical director in clinical microbiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Core member of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. (@michaelmina_lab)

Ian Pepper, environmental microbiologist. Director of the Water and Energy Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Arizona. Professor in the Community, Environment, and Policy Department in the University of Arizona College of Public Health. Leading efforts to detect COVID-19 in wastewater on campus, to prevent outbreaks. Director, National Science Foundation Water Quality Center. (@UAZPublicHealth)

From The Reading List

The Atlantic: The Plan That Could Give Us Our Lives Back” — “Michael Mina is a professor of epidemiology at Harvard, where he studies the diagnostic testing of infectious diseases. He has watched, with disgust and disbelief, as the United States has struggled for months to obtain enough tests to fight the coronavirus. In January, he assured a newspaper reporter that he had ‘absolute faith’ in the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contain the virus. By early March, that conviction was in crisis. ‘The incompetence has really exceeded what anyone would expect,’ he told The New York Times. His astonishment has only intensified since.”

The Wall Street Journal: Abbott’s $5 Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Test Gets Emergency-Use Status From FDA” — “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency-use authorization to Abbott Laboratories ABT 7.30% for a $5 rapid-response COVID-19 antigen test that is roughly the size of a credit card. The low-cost, rapid-response test could be administered in a doctor’s or school nurse’s office and uses technology similar to home pregnancy tests. It returns results in about 15 minutes.”

The Atlantic: A New Era Of Coronavirus Testing Is About to Begin” — “In 24 hours, the testing landscape of the United States has transformed. Yesterday morning, all of the tests for COVID-19 — traditional or rapid — that had received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration required an expensive machine and cost around $40 or more. In the afternoon, the pharmaceutical company Abbott announced that it had received FDA authorization to distribute a new type of test. This test requires only a coated-paper card and a small swab, and the scale of its production is stunning: Abbott says it will begin manufacturing 50 million of these tests a month in October. The tests will cost just $5 apiece.”

Healthline: “Fast Isn’t Always Better: What to Know About Rise of Rapid Coronavirus Testing” — “Earlier this month, shortly before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was due to meet President Donald Trump at a Cleveland airport, the governor tested positive on a rapid antigen test for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes the disease COVID-19. Two follow-up tests, using a more accurate polymerase chain reaction, or PCR test, showed the governor didn’t have the virus. This kind of false positive with an antigen test isn’t an isolated incident.”

Vox: Rapid $1 Covid-19 tests exist. Why can’t we get them?” — “To get the US pandemic under control, a growing number of health and medical experts are making a clarion call for an additional testing approach to COVID-19. What we need, they argue, are at-home rapid tests that look for antigens, proteins the live virus makes. These kits would allow anyone to test themselves for the coronavirus any time (and anywhere) for between $1 and $5, and get results in about 15 minutes. No doctors, labs, expensive machines, or special chemicals required.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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