I have previously posted about how I believe fast antigen tests are the key for surveillance and safe school reopenings here and here. They give fast results and can be a potentially powerful tool in bringing real time testing, tracing, and isolation into the realm of feasibility, which might be the best tool to allow schools to reopen while being confident we have a workable plan to quickly identify and nip in the bud any potential school-based outbreak.
As I have posted before, the White House Pandemic Response team has bought up the entire supply of the new Abbott BinaxNOW fast antigen tests, giving instant results, for the remainder of 2020 -- this is 150 million tests. To put in perspective, the total number of tests done in the USA since the beginning of the pandemic is >87 million, and looking at ourworldindata.com it appears that the USA testing is somwhere >20% of the world total. This is clearly an enormous number of antigen tests that will be done in the USA this fall. I have argued they should be used by schools for surveillance to ensure that any infections are quickly isolated and controlled, that this could be the key to safe school reopening, and also expressed concern about how these tests would be distributed.
From the attached report from the White House Pandemic Response team last week, it can be seen that the Abbott BinaxNOW tests are listed as the recommended steps for each state to follow, including the following language for each state:
Using the Abbott BinaxNOW, establish weekly surveillance in critical populations to monitor
degree of community spread among K-12 teachers; staff working at nursing homes, assisted
living, and other congregate living settings; and first responders
So, it appears that they are distributing them to the states, and recommending they be used for surveillance in schools, nursing homes, prisons, and hospitals. This is promising, and I hope the logistics can work to get these in schools and useful for allowing more schools to open while providing monitoring, surveillance, tracing, and quarantine procedures that are effective and targeted, allowing schools to operate while containing any infections quickly and efficiently. I am hoping these is a way to use them on students and not just staff.
It also highlights the urgency in getting ALL states to start counting positive antigen tests as cases RIGHT AWAY, while collating data so individuals are not double counted when having both antigen and PCR tests or multiple PCR tests. Many states are still not including antigen positives as cases in their official reporting. This is crucial for us to keep track of what is happening with the pandemic as we move into the fall, to ensure we quickly detect any surge of cases so we can mitigate and contain it, and so we can be confident in any declines that they are real so states with many restrictions can start lifting them, e.g. by opening schools as it becomes safe enough. Some places already have nearly as many antigen positives as PCR positives, e.g. Dallas County that reported 139 PCR positives and 134 antigen positives yesterday (Thanks to Jean Rees for sending) thus leading to a potential undercount of up to half of the actual new cases.
BTW I recommend taking a look at the White House Pandemic Response Team report for 9/6/20. If you look at this report, you can see that it contains an INCREDIBLE amount of information on the conditions of the pandemic in each state, and shows how hard this group, led by Deborah Birx, is working, which is not generally recognized by the media.