Oregon to Deploy Huge Influx of Rapid Covid-19 Tests from Federal Government

Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday announced a plan to deploy a huge influx of rapid Covid-19 tests from the federal government — 60,000 to 80,000 per week until the end of the year.

The tests — known as the Abbott BinaxNOW antigen tests — can diagnose cases of Covid-19 in 15 minutes.

“With this increased testing capacity, we hope to be able to diagnose more people quickly so they can get the care they need,” Governor Brown said at a press conference. “We want to identify more cases of Covid-19 so we can also isolate and quarantine people, helping contain the virus.”

But while testing is an excellent tool in giving health officials a clearer picture of how communities are weathering the coronavirus storm, Brown stressed “it is not a cure-all or the solution to all of our problems.”

“We cannot test our way out of this pandemic,” Brown said. “Without all the other safety measures we continue to hammer home with you — the physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and wearing a mask — testing won’t do anything to stop Covid-19 in our communities.”

The recent events at the White House — in which President Donald Trump, the first lady and at least a dozen others in the president’s orbit have tested positive for the coronavirus — have only reinforced the continued threat posed by Covid-19, Brown said.

“We must continue to stay the course to save lives,” she concluded.

The new tests will be deployed statewide, with a focus first on counties and long-term care facilities that have been affected by wildfire evacuations, putting vulnerable residents and staff at higher risk for Covid-19.

The second priority will be outpatient and mobile COVID-19 testing locations, for symptomatic people and their close contacts, whether those contacts are showing symptoms.

Testing will also be prioritized for vulnerable communities, including migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, communities of color and tribal communities, and people living in congregate care settings.

People living in places most vulnerable to Covid-19 spread, such as congregate care or living facilities, prisons and other community testing locations will also receive higher priority.

Rapid tests will also be distributed to health centers based at K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, to support the testing of symptomatic students and staff, close contacts of cases, and to investigate outbreaks.

The Oregon Health Authority will maintain a strategic reserve of tests to address outbreaks beyond December, in the event the federal government runs low on testing supplies, Brown said.

Health experts caution that antigen tests provide accurate positive results, but that they can produce false negatives for people with Covid-19.

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