By Madison Disney
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Maryland has acquired 250,000 rapid point-of-care antigen COVID-19 tests that will be used in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and correctional and juvenile detention centers, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday.
The antigen diagnostic machines deliver results on site in 15 to 20 minutes and will be used to better detect COVID-19 outbreaks faster, Hogan said.
“There were tests that came out that were roughly 50 percent accurate, and some states were using them,” Hogan said. “We chose not to. These new tests are up in the 84 to 87 percent accuracy, and my understanding is that you don’t have false negatives, you have some false positives.”
Although the tests acquired by the state give quick results, Hogan said they do not replace the more reliable PCR diagnostic tests, which can take five to seven days to produce results. The state has already successfully completed 2.1 million PCR tests for 25 percent of Maryland’s population. They will still be used as a follow up if patients test positive with the rapid test kit.
The purchase makes Maryland the first of 10 states in the bipartisan interstate compact to acquire the tests. The compact, which is working together to purchase 500,000 antigen tests per state, is made up of Maryland, Arkansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Ohio, Utah and Virginia.
“This state-of-the-art rapid testing will be critically important to our continued economic recovery and will also help to keep the people of our state safe,” Hogan said. “I’m pleased to announce that Maryland will be the first state in the bipartisan interstate testing compact to move forward with an order with Becton Dickinson for the purchase of the first 250,000 of these rapid tests, along with the diagnostic machines used to process the tests onsite.”
The funding for the purchases of the tests (around $8 million) will be covered by a grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Each test will cost $30 and they should be distributed within a few days, Hogan said.
Hogan made the announcement during a visit to the Baltimore County-facility of Becton, Dickinson and Company, which manufactures the BD Veritor tests purchased by the state. He was accompanied by Dr. Rajiv Shah, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Dave Hickey, the president of Diagnostic Solutions.
“Beating back this pandemic requires a massive scale up of rapid screening testing to 200 million a month,” Shah said. “Right now, as a country heading into flu season, we aren’t even at 30 million a month.”