Virginia joins six-state antigen testing agreement
State will have 500K rapid COVID-19 tests in cooperation with Rockefeller Foundation
Virginia will be part of a six-state agreement that will expand rapid testing for COVID-19, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday. The state will purchase 500,000 antigen tests, which the governor says can deliver results in 15 to 20 minutes.
Virginia joins Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio in the compact, according to a news release from the governor’s office. The states will enter formal discussions with U.S. antigen test manufacturers Becton Dickinson and Quidel to purchase half a million FDA-approved tests for each state. Other states and local governments may join the compact in coming weeks.
Antigen tests, conducted with a nasal or throat swab, detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus and typically take one hour or less to get results, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Positive results are usually highly accurate, but negative results may need to be confirmed with a molecular, or PCR, test. PCR tests are much more commonly given and may take a week or more to deliver results. Both tests are given to currently sick people, while the antibody test — which tests for COVID-19 antibodies in blood — can be given after a person has recovered from the virus or is asymptomatic.
“The states are leading America’s national response to COVID-19,” Northam said in a statement. “We are bringing together this bipartisan, multi-state coalition to combine our purchasing power and get rapid testing supplies to our communities as quickly as possible. The people in our six states want to see action, and together, we’re delivering.”
The New York-based Rockefeller Foundation will assist the states in creating financing mechanisms for the interstate testing compact, according to the news release. The foundation, which has committed $50 million to increasing testing and tracing, has set a goal of 30 million COVID-19 tests per week across the country by October; currently, 4.5 million tests are performed each week, it says.
As of Tuesday, the United States reports 4.74 million confirmed coronavirus cases, the most in the world, and 156,133 virus-related deaths. Virginia has recorded 94,251 confirmed and probable cases and 2,244 deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
The news release did not give details on when the tests will become available in Virginia or how the state will determine which localities will be prioritized. In recent weeks, the Hampton Roads area has seen a sharp increase in cases, prompting the governor to place restrictions on restaurants and private gatherings.