Rapid coronavirus tests alone don't prevent outbreaks, a CDC study shows. The White House relied on them anyway.
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The White House has not required staff or event attendees to wear masks or social distance throughout the pandemic. Instead, the main precautionary measure the Trump administration relied on was rapid molecular tests, which work by identifying a small section of the virus' genome and amplifying it until it's detectable. Specifically, the administration has used Abbott Laboratories' ID Now rapid test to determine whether those coming into contact with the president were coronavirus-free. That was the case on September 26, when President Trump hosted the Supreme Court nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden. All guests were tested before attending; then, comfortable that all results were negative, maskless guests hugged, mingled, and remained in close proximity to one another over the course of at least 20 minutes. Less than a week later, Trump had COVID-19. At least 11 other White House and GOP officials — most of whom were at the ceremony — have also tested positive since Friday. New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the White House's reliance on rapid tests in these instances may have been unsafe. A CDC study published Monday describes a case in which a 13-year-old was exposed to the virus, tested negative using a rapid test, then vacationed with her family. The teenager's result turned out to be a false negative, and she ended up passing the illness on to a dozen family members. Rapid tests are faster but less accurate
Rapid diagnostic tests for the coronavirus, unlike the traditional RT-PCR tests that get sent to a lab, can take as little as 5-15 minutes to yield results. Most of these fast-turnaround tests – including the test the 13-year-old used – look for antigens, bits of protein that sit on or in the virus. Molecular tests, like Abbott's, hunt down pieces of the virus' genome. By contrast, the PCR tests do a more in-depth scouring for the virus's genetic code, which is why it often takes days to get results. The problem with speeding up the process, however, is that many of the antigen rapid COVID-19 tests we have now may only pick up about 70% to 80% of infections, and they can produce false negatives. The Food and Drug Administration cautions that negative rapid-test results may need to be confirmed with a lab test, and the CDC says the tests are "generally less sensitive than viral tests."
Molecular tests are better, but they still aren't as accurate as PCR tests. Some studies have found that about 9% of Abbott ID Now tests produce false negatives. PCR tests, on the other hand, "would be pretty close to 100% accurate" if performed correctly, Dr. Emily Volk, an assistant professor of pathology at the University of Texas-Health in San Antonio, told Healthline. "What seems to have been fundamentally misunderstood in all this was that they were using it almost like you would implement a metal detector," Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, told the Wall Street Journal, adding, "a metal detector that misses 10% of weapons — you'd never, ever say that's our only layer of protection for the president." In an email to Business Insider, John Koval, an Abbott spokesperson, noted that "more than 11 million Americans have taken the ID NOW test, helping to stop the spread of the virus." "Rapid tests are an invaluable tool that help reduce the risk in society and slow the spread of the virus," he added. The goal should be to test often – or if that's not possible, to test if you've been exposed or have symptoms – and find out if you have it. If so, you'll know to isolate to prevent spread." A family gathering gone awry The new CDC study describes a family that put their faith in rapid antigen testing. Among 14 people who stayed in one house together following the teenage family member's negative test result, 12 contracted COVID-19.
The 13-year old had been exposed to the coronavirus while away from home, and she was experiencing nasal congestion but no other symptoms when she took the rapid test. After her negative result, the family deemed it safe for her to travel to the five-bedroom, two-bathroom vacation house with the group. The family members staying at the house did not wear masks or practice social distancing, though six other relatives who visited the family gathering remained outdoors and socially distanced. Those six people did not get infected. "I would still say that distancing and outdoor air are your best friends," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, previously told Business Insider. "To me, that would provide me much more assurance that I was not going to either get infected, or infect others, than would a rapid-detection test." Based on their results, the CDC study authors said the case study shows why "regardless of negative test results, persons should self-quarantine for 14 days after a known exposure." They also reiterated that results of rapid antigen tests need to be confirmed with PCR tests, especially in people "with high pretest probability of infection, such as those with a known exposure." When rapid tests can be useful While they shouldn't be the only precaution people take, rapid tests can help screen large groups for the coronavirus, according to Anne Wyllie, a researcher behind the rapid saliva-based test SalivaDirect, which got emergency FDA authorization in August. "This is definitely more for screening," Wyllie previously told Business Insider. She added that the tests could be useful for "frequent testing" in group settings like schools and workplaces.
Still, it's easy to see how the tests can foster a false sense of security. "It does send a message basically that if you're negative at this point, you must be doing something right," Osterholm said. "When I would say [if] you're negative at this point, you might just be lucky, and your luck's going to run out." Correction: A previous version of this story noted that the White House had relied on rapid antigen tests. It has actually been using Abbott's rapid molecular tests. SEE ALSO: Rapid coronavirus tests can give results in 15 minutes, but they aren't a pass for partying or seeing your parents DON'T MISS: Trump's doctors say the president is getting better. But they also started him on a steroid usually reserved for patients with 'severe and critical COVID-19' Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: The White House has spent $12 billion on its Operation Warp Speed vaccine plan — but experts are worried about how the money's being used
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Summary List Placement Passengers at Europe's busiest airport, London Heathrow, can now take a $100 rapid...Summary List Placement Passengers at Europe's busiest airport, London Heathrow, can now take a $100 rapid COVID-19 test if they're flying to Hong Kong and Italy, which require proof of a negative test result on arrival. From Tuesday, passengers at Heathrow Airport can pay £80 ($104) for the tests, which guarantee results within an hour. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Cathay Pacific will be the first airlines to offer the tests, which are only available for passengers leaving the UK. Flyers book a Lamp (Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification) test online ahead of time, and take it before checking in at two of the airport's four terminals. The test is "not as sensitive" as the lab-processed PCR test commonly used by the UK's health service, Collinson, the company behind the scheme, said in its press release. Passengers have their nose and throat swabbed, and the samples are processed on-site by biotech company Prenetics. Lamp tests might be able to detect patients immediately after infection, before symptoms are displayed, Collinson added, but this is "unsure at present." Read more: Pfizer and Moderna are neck-and-neck in the race to deliver the first effective coronavirus vaccine. Here's everything we know about the timeline and when you might be able to get a shot. Some countries require proof of a negative result upon arrival. Both Hong Kong and Italy require all travelers from the UK, where cases are relatively high, to provide a negative test before being allowed in, either before departure or on arrival. However, the Lamp test will not suffice for Britons traveling to Greece, Cyprus, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. These countries require travelers to take a PCR test. Collinson plans to add other pre-departure tests in the future, such as antigen tests, it said. In August, Heathrow unveiled a large test-on-arrival facility for passengers built by Collinson and logistics firm Swissport — but it is still awaiting government approval. If the testing is authorized, it could reduce the length of the current 14-day quarantine period for passengers arriving in the UK from certain countries. German airports including Frankfurt and Munich offer free rapid COVID-19 tests to travelers returning from high-risk countries. France will introduce rapid COVID-19 tests at airports by the end of October for passengers traveling to the US and Italy, as well as for arrivals from high-risk countries. Finland, meanwhile, is trialing dogs to test travelers for COVID-19. Helsinki-Vantaa airport claims this could be a quicker and cheaper method than traditional tests.SEE ALSO: Flying between New York and London with a shorter quarantine may be possible by December, after US officials reportedly revive 'air corridor' talks Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How the suicide hotline saved my life
Rapid antigen tests are starting to be adopted worldwide. Reuters: Germany, where infections jumped by 4,122...Rapid antigen tests are starting to be adopted worldwide. Reuters: Germany, where infections jumped by 4,122 on Tuesday to 329,453 total, has secured 9 million so-called antigen tests per month that can deliver a result in minutes and cost about 5 euros ($5.90) each. That would, in theory, cover more than 10% of the population. […] The post Rapid Antigen Tests appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.
Federal officials relied too heavily on the tests, then took the results for granted, experts say.