Rapid COVID-19 testing starts

Governor Cuomo gets tested for COVID-19 in May.
Governor Cuomo gets tested for COVID-19 in May.
Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor Cuomo getting tested for the coronavirus in May.

Rapid COVID-19 testing starts

New York state is bringing testing devices to hot spots for faster results.
August 31, 2020

New York state has deployed a new approach to coronavirus testing in response to recent outbreaks in western New York and at SUNY Oneonta. Rather than collecting a sample and sending it to a lab, coronavirus “SWAT teams” are bringing the testing equipment into the field.

While these sites are using the same Abbott ID NOW testing machines that are being used at fixed testing sites run by the state, this new approach is cutting days off the time typically needed to get test results back to people, Gareth Rhodes, a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force, said in an interview. “The results are available in 15 minutes,” he said. “This was the first time the state has done that.”

Making testing work at such a scale could have far-reaching effects on efforts to contain the coronavirus moving forward by allowing people to be screened fairly quickly before going to work, school or public gatherings. However, it is going to take more than the ID NOW devices to make it happen.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency authorization to another test by Abbott that costs as little as $5 per test (compared to $40 for other tests, which The New York Times reports is giving the rich a big edge in avoiding the virus), even though the tests are about 20% less accurate because they test for viral proteins rather than genetic material.

Such tests could become available to New York state around the end of September, according to Rhodes, once the Trump administration begins distributing some of the 150 million tests it is buying. It remains to be seen just how many tests the administration would deliver to the Empire State, but, one way or another, the state is entering a new period of the pandemic where testing can increasingly happen in real time.

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.