This year, in order to wrap-up the basketball season despite the pandemic, the NBA created what it called The Bubble, a self-contained area that used point-of-care COVID-19 tests to ensure that no infected person brought the virus into the area. It was a success. Now, the Department of Health and Human Services is launching a pilot program to bring that same rapid virus test to five states.
Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, Texas, and Alaska will all take part in the program, which the department expects will enable 100,000 tests per day by this spring. According to Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of Health who oversees national testing efforts, his office chose these five states “due to their considerable COVID cases and their great partnerships throughout the pandemic.”
Cue the Tests
The tests were designed and produced by Cue Health, the California company that provided the NBA with its testing infrastructure. Backed by investors like Johnson & Johnson, Cue uses a molecular test, which collects samples from the lower part of a patient’s nose with a swab. Results are available within 20 minutes.
Part of what makes the Cue tests so efficient is that they can be processed outside a clinical lab. That’s a huge advantage over other molecular tests, which can take days to yield results because they have to travel to a lab. The lab then becomes a bottleneck. And when demand for tests is high, that’s a particular strain. Throughout the height of the pandemic, slow results have made it difficult to know whether or not you have the virus and whether you need to isolate. But a quick, on-the-spot test can help mitigate the delays.
Moreover, Cue says that its technology is more accurate than an antigen test, which sometimes needs be confirmed by a molecular test.
In addition, experts have viewed widespread testing as key to taming the pandemic since its onset. In recent weeks, as daily infection rates hit record highs, many health specialists have called on the government to ramp up massive testing production. Such an operation could help cut off chains of transmission, allowing businesses and schools to open more easily.
Accurate and Fast
Now, it looks like the Department of Health and Human Services could prove a star client for Cue. Last month, the department announced a $481 million contract with the company to quickly ramp-up test manufacturing. The contract compels Cue to produce 100,000 tests a day by March. Additionally, the contract guarantees at least 6 million tests for the government in that time frame.
Ayub Khattak, chief executive of Cue, says that his company’s test combines the best elements of its leading competitors. “The key is having the sensitivity of a laboratory test,” he said, “but the deployability of an antigen test. If you could confirm in 20 minutes versus in two or three days, that’s very helpful in getting to the right decision sooner in terms of the diagnosis.”
Reprinted with permission from https://werax.com/the-rapid-covid-test-used-in-the-nba-bubble-is-heading-to-5-states/
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