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Pressure rises for fast COVID-19 test

The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed ​​has now helped achieve the remarkable success of two vaccines that are proving to be extremely effective in preventing COVID-19. But pressure is mounting for a similar push from the administration in another key area to combat the pandemic: rapid testing.

Despite the success of vaccines, they will not be widely available to the public for several months, although hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase on the way into a brutal winter.

A vocal group of experts say widespread rapid testing can help drastically slow the spread of the virus until a vaccine is widely available, and help open businesses and schools.

But such tests have not come off the track despite the existing technology. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Elected President Joe BidenJoe Biden External groups flood Georgia with pre-run advertising purchases Biden receives @POTUS Twitter account on January 20, though Trump does not admit, the company says Trump is attending the virtual G-20 summit amid coronavirus rise MORE calls for stronger government action. In a speech in October, he called for a “faster, cheaper screening test that you can take right at home or at school,” and his transition team’s coronavirus plan includes a call to invest in next-generation testing, including home testing and immediate testing, so we can scale up our test capacity by orders of magnitude. ”

President TrumpDonald John Trump Ben Carson says he is ‘out of the woods’ after being ‘extremely ill’ with COVID-19 Biden receives @POTUS Twitter account on January 20, though Trump does not admit, says company Trump to attend virtual G-20 summit in the midst of coronavirus rise MOREhas, however, often downplayed the need for more testing.

“We have leadership in the country, [and] they are not aware that they are leaders, ”said Michael Mina, a professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health who has been a spokesman for rapid tests for several months. “The number of people I’ve talked to says, ‘Well, why is that not happening?’ and my only answer is, ‘Because you do not.’ ”

The tests that Mina and others are pushing for are simple strips of paper that could be mass-produced so that every household in the United States could have supplies and use them several times a week. Anyone could know if they are positive for coronavirus know if a line appears on the paper strip or not within minutes.

That way, people would know if they are positive before going to work or school or a gathering of friends, and if they are, they can stay home.

“The government should send them out with surgical masks to every household in the United States,” said Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research.

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci says Santa will not spread coronavirus due to ‘innate immunity’ Bill Gates: ‘I feel very safe’ COVID-19 vaccine is safe Fauci gets frustrated: ‘Get rid of these ridiculous conspiracy theories’ MORE, the government’s leading expert on infectious diseases, nodded a glance at such rapid home tests while speaking at a New York Times summit on Tuesday.

“What we really need now, and which we hopefully get, but we do not have yet, is the point of care testing that people can essentially do at home, as a pregnancy test, because the spread is spread from people without symptoms.” Said Fauci.

Not everyone is fully on board, however, including the FDA.

Some experts give cause for concern that rapid tests are not as accurate as the standard tests currently relied upon and that people may get a false negative from a rapid test and then go out and infect others. Another concern is that if people take tests at home, they will not report their results to the public health authorities and the country will lose data on where the virus is spreading.

“There has been a discussion about lowering standards to bring something to market, and I do not agree with that,” said Peter Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a former associate commissioner for the FDA.

An FDA spokesman pointed to an up-swearing in The Hill, written by two top officials in September, which contained a warning about the danger of lower accuracy tests with false negatives.

“You may be wrongly assured that your symptoms are just summer cold,” wrote FDA officials, Jeffrey Shuren and Timothy Stenzel. “You walk around your normal day and put everyone you come across at risk of infection.”

Still, they added that they are willing to listen to new ideas. “The FDA is always open to alternative suggestions from developers and will continue to consider them,” they wrote.

Supporters of rapid tests say the FDA has too narrow a view, and that when rapid tests are often used on a large scale, they will help capture many more cases than a smaller number of somewhat more accurate tests would. Proponents also say that rapid testing is accurate in capturing positive cases when it matters most, when people are most contagious and at risk of spreading the virus to others.

Topol said he believes the FDA is “absurdly, inappropriately cautious” in approving rapid tests.

The FDA took a step forward Tuesday when it approved the first home test. But the test from a startup company called Lucira is more complicated than a simple strip of paper, which means it will cost around $ 50 and will not be widely available until spring.

Mina said the government needs to take a far more active role in providing funding to increase the production of rapid tests instead of relying on small start-ups to carry out the work themselves. He estimates that the cost of a nationwide rapid testing program will be around $ 30 billion, a small fraction of the many trillions that Congress has spent on economic relief from the coronavirus crisis.

“It pauses our community, and yet we are sitting here and actually having a discussion and clapping about a very small start-up company getting a new product on the market that will be available in April,” Mina said.

“These tests could have made Thanksgiving happen normally if we started this in August,” he added.

Rahul Dhanda, CEO of Sherlock Biosciences, another firm working on a rapid test, said his firm could come up faster with government funding.

“We could do much more in danger in the past if there was state support for the work that we and others are doing,” he said.

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