Image: Russell Tate for United Nations COVID-19 Response, via Unsplash

Since the nation seems to be starting its coronavirus response all over again, a coalition of seven states has decided to bring back an idea from earlier in the pandemic. The states, led by Maryland, are banding together to order 3.5 million quick-response COVID-19 tests. If that sounds a bit familiar, it's because several multi-state coalitions popped up in the spring to coordinate orders of personal protective equipment for medical workers, back when Donald Trump was telling the states to bid against each other and the federal government. Trump still doesn't have a national strategy, so governors are coming together again to do the job the federal government has abdicated.

While the earlier efforts were aimed at more effectively getting PPE to where it was needed, this coalition is aimed at getting the producers of rapid-detection tests to step up production. And look, bipartisanship, as the Washington Post reports:

The governors, three Republicans and four Democrats, say other states and cities may join them and that talks have already begun with one of the two companies approved by the FDA to sell point-of-care antigen tests that can detect the virus in less than 30 minutes.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) negotiated the deal during the final days of his tenure as chair of the National Governors Association. His office said the Rockefeller Foundation is willing to act as the financing entity if needed.

Gosh, that sounds like the sort of thing a federal government might do, too, if we had one.


The seven states (Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, and Louisiana, so far) would request 500,000 of the tests, which would reduce those states' reliance on lab testing that currently can take a week or more due to high demand.

So what the hell is an antigen test, anyway? The Post explains,

Rather than detecting the virus's genetic material, the antigen tests identify a protein on the virus's surface — a process cheaper and faster than the more complex and more precise polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests being used across the country right now.

While health experts have heralded the antigen tests as a way to quickly screen large populations, they have yet to be widely available.

Like the PCR tests, the antigen tests can tell whether someone is currently infected (as opposed to antibody tests, which are the ones that show whether someone had been infected at some point in the past). Once the infection is gone, those antigens can't be detected. The accuracy of antigen tests may not be as precise as the PCR tests, which are more sensitive, but

they usually provide test results rapidly, are relatively cheap, and can be more amenable to point-of-care use, which could make them more suitable for testing in the community and in remote regions.

The seven-state buyer's club hopes that providing a market for the tests will finally mean the companies making 'em will expand production nationwide. If you come, they will build it. It's the sort of thing that could have been spurred by use of the Defense Production Act, if the country had a president with any interest in making sure national testing capacity kept up with need. But nah, Donald Trump hasn't used the DPA to spur development or production of the rapid tests.

The Munificent Seven plan was initially proposed by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of a larger national strategy for testing and contact tracing. The Post reports that the Rockefeller Foundation is all up in this, so conspiracy theorists should have a field day.

Again, wouldn't it be neat if there were some sort of central government that could guide a strategy for dealing with this pandemic, so it wouldn't be left to states to develop (or ignore) stuff like quick tests that can screen whether someone has flu or COVID-19? It's definitely something the separate states in the area between Canada and Mexico should look into.

That, and universal healthcare.

[WaPo / Technolgy Networks / Bloomberg / WaPo / Image: Russell Tate for United Nations COVID-19 Response via Unsplash]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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