Gov. Larry Hogan plans to give an update Thursday on a plan to buy rapid coronavirus tests in cooperation with nine other states.
Hogan will travel to northern Baltimore County to visit the Sparks location of Becton, Dickinson and Co., a global medical technology firm that is one of the companies the states were negotiating with for the so-called antigen tests.
Hogan will be joined by Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which is also part of the purchasing compact. The nonprofit organization has pushed for faster, cheaper tests to be made widely available, and pledged to spend $50 million on the effort.
Rockefeller is pushing for the United States to conduct 30 million tests weekly by this fall, when the seasonal flu is expected to emerge. The nation currently conducts only several million tests per week.
Maryland, the Rockefeller Foundation and the other states have allied with the goal of buying half a million rapid antigen tests for each state. Hogan touted it as a first-of-its-kind cooperative purchasing agreement. The other compact members are Arkansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah and Virginia.
When the compact was announced, Hogan said the group was in talks with Becton, Dickinson and Quidel Corp., two companies that have tests on the market that received emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Antigen tests look for a protein associated with the coronavirus and can return results within about 20 minutes. Conventional molecular tests detect the genetic material from the virus and take longer to analyze in the lab. While some conventional tests return results in one or two days, there were reports this summer of even longer waits as commercial labs got backed up with tests.
The quick return of results from antigen tests holds appeal in the effort to quickly identify and contain coronavirus infections.
But there are concerns about the accuracy of the antigen tests, as they can produce some false positives, particularly if there isn’t a lot of disease in the area, and even more false negatives because they are not as sensitive as the molecular tests.
Health experts recommend using the rapid antigen tests on people who are sick with symptoms, not for screening people without symptoms or those who need definitive results to go to work, such as health and emergency workers.
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