The country performed almost 5.3 million tests last week, according to the Covid Tracking Project, and commercial labs have said that turnaround times are improving, taking a few or several days on average.

The report warned of “impending disaster.” The virus is already taking lives, causing economic damage and exacerbating inequities -- and the fall cold and flu system threatens to worsen conditions. The country must be able to perform 30 million tests a week by the end of October, which would require a “concerted national effort,” billions in funding and leveraging fast, cheap testing technology, the report concluded.

Hurrying Up
The interstate agreement represents a bet that faster, cheaper antigen testing can make a dent in long processing times, detecting outbreaks more quickly and making screenings more accessible. The states will also cooperate to deploy the technology, and will have the Rockefeller Foundation’s help to develop financing mechanisms for the arrangement.

They’re likely to face constraints nonetheless. Antigen testing, which is processed in about 15 minutes and doesn’t need to be sent to a lab, is currently sold in the U.S. only by Quidel and Becton, Dickinson.

Diagnostics makers are already swamped with demand for antigen and other tests, supply constraints that could limit such orders.

Antigen tests make it possible to screen people before they enter group settings like nursing homes and workplaces, but can also miss infections. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has advised that negative results may need to be confirmed with another kind of test.

Despite the tests’ limitations, the plan is a significant organizational advance.

“These are very big states” coordinating “to maximize their reach and ability to influence the market and be able to make progress,” said Gronvall of Johns Hopkins, adding that similar efforts on other tests could also be forthcoming.

However, she said, a unified approach “would have the power of many more states and the federal government.”

--With assistance from Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou.
This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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