White House announces deal to provide 150 million rapid coronavirus tests

By and Seung Min Kim,

The White House announced a deal Thursday with Abbott Laboratories to produce 150 million rapid coronavirus tests that will allow users to obtain results in 15 minutes from a small card.

The announcement of the $760 million deal came just hours before President Trump was scheduled to deliver his nomination speech at the close of the Republican National Convention.

“This is a major development that will help our country to remain open, get Americans back to work, and kids back to school!” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted late Thursday afternoon.

The move is the federal government’s biggest step into testing for the virus that has killed more than 177,000 Americans and infected more than 5.8 million. Almost since the pandemic arrived on U.S. shores in January, Trump has insisted that testing was mainly the province of state and local authorities.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance on testing at the direction of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, stating people without symptoms of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, “do not necessarily need a test.” Previously, the public health agency had advised anyone in close contact with an infected person to be tested for the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday — a day before Trump’s convention speech — issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the $5 Abbott BinaxNOW tests. Using antigens, not the more reliable PCR test, they will work something like a pregnancy test. After 15 minutes, health-care providers will read the card. One line means negative, two lines means positive.

The antigen test leaves a greater chance of a false negative result. The FDA said users may need a second test to confirm a negative result.

Health-care providers will swab a patient’s nose and apply the sample to a credit card-sized test card with a testing chemical.

This test is aimed at schools, nursing homes and doctors offices, and other places where many people need to be tested in a short time. Abbott hopes to make as many as 50 million tests available monthly in the United States at the start of October.

White House officials did not immediately elaborate on how the tests will be distributed or offer details on other logistics. They did not respond to a request for clarification on how the release of millions of new tests squares with the new CDC testing guidelines.

Amy Goldstein contributed to this report.

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