Buying Up Millions of Tests, 6 States Say They Can Crush Delays

People line up at a mobile coronavirus testing site at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science on July 22 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — For weeks, Garth Blundin had self-isolated at home to minimize his exposure to the novel coronavirus. Having come into contact more recently with people not wearing masks, however, Blundin worried that the symptoms he was experiencing might not just be his seasonal allergies.

“I heard about the drive-through testing at CVS, so I decided to get tested,” said Blundin, whose real name has been disguised for privacy concerns. 

The pharmacy said results come take five to seven days, so Blundin went back to his home in Richmond and avoided contact like he was told. Seven days passed with no results. Then 10. 

Blundin kept refreshing the website where results are posted, hoping to get good news. Finally on day 15, his test came back negative. 

“I was infuriated that it took so long,” he said in an interview. “The waiting in isolation was very difficult to deal with mentally.”

Across the country, as surging infection rates heighten anxiety over the virus, reports of delays and testing shortages have become all too common. While many providers have trouble meeting the volume of demand, however, the governors of six states said there is strength in numbers.

Together with the Rockefeller Foundation, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia said Tuesday they will purchase 3 million antigen tests from Becton Dickinson and Quidel, both U.S. manufacturers whose products have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Each state will get 500,000 antigen tests said to deliver results in 15-20 minutes.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced the purchasing agreement with a pointed shot at President Donald Trump, who continues to advance the illogical claim that the country is actually testing too much, making the pandemic appear worse hear than in other countries. The assertion is akin to saying that fewer pregnancy tests would change the number of pregnancies.

“With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of Covid-19,” Hogan said.

The Washington Post reported weeks earlier that Trump aimed to reduce funding for tests as part of a congressional spending plan even as, at the time, almost 80,000 new cases a day were being reported.  

Trump insisted this morning meanwhile that the nation has the coronavirus under control. 

“It is what it is,” he told Axios, as the United States marked nearly 160,000 total deaths from the virus on Tuesday.

“The U.S. is lowest in numerous categories, we’re lower than the word,” he said.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday called the states’ combined purchasing power key to addressing the need.  

“The people in our six states want to see action, and we’re delivering,” the Democratic Northam said in a statement.  

Dr. Rajiv Shah, president of the nonprofit philanthropic group, applauded the agreement.  

“We are committed to helping communities across America avoid the tragic consequences of this disease by expanding the use of the latest diagnostic and screening tests so those unwittingly spreading Covid can be isolated and supported,” Shah said in a statement. 

All of this is good news for Blundin who said he’s hopeful about any new strategy that aims to reduce turnaround times for tests.  

“I want to protect others. I want to do the right thing. The responsible thing,” he said. “I definitely would hesitate if I thought it would be another 15 day wait.”

“Five days is too long,” he added. “Fifteen is basically pointless.”

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