ATLANTA — The federal government announced earlier this week that it is sending 3 million rapid COVID-19 tests to Georgia which will be distributed in 200,000 batches from now until the end of the year.
There has been some debate about the accuracy of the tests that give results in 15 minutes.
Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spoke with the man overseeing coronavirus testing for the federal government, Assistant Secretary of Health Adm. Brett Giroir, who said the tests will help Georgia and the rest of the country get a grip on COVID-19.
“The BinaxNOW test will be a radical step forward for Georgia,” Giroir said.
He told Johnson that rapid test kits will help make sure case counts keep trending downward across the state.
“You’ve seen that in Georgia, you’re starting to see that we saw it in Texas, in Florida, in Arizona, where we didn’t have to shut down the economy. We needed to do smart testing,” Giroir said.
The tests are the size of a credit card and show results within 15 minutes.
Historically Black colleges and universities will be among the first to get them.
“We know that African Americans are five times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID,” Giroir said.
Nursing homes account for 40% of COVID-19 deaths and are also a priority of the Trump administration.
“It’s not that, you know, somehow magically, it circulates among the residents. It’s people who work at the nursing home, the nursing home staff, many of whom could be asymptomatic, inadvertently bring it into the nursing home,” Giroir said.
John Lynch’s father, Hugh Lynch, died inside of a Tucker nursing home in April.
“I said my goodbyes to my dad through FaceTime,” Lynch said.
Since then, Lynch has been raising money to donate iPads through “Lunch with Lynch,” so families can talk to loved ones during lockdowns.
He told Johnson he hopes more rapid testing inside of nursing homes can keep the elderly from dying and get families reunited in person.
“It’s hard for us, you know, that have aging parents that are in those facilities, because, you know, our parents count on us,” Lynch said.
But many places will continue to struggle to pay for other expensive testing options once their free supply runs out.
“Testing of staff is very costly and requires a lot of staff time and effort to conduct the test, and to actually report the results of those tasks,” said Tony Marshall of the Georgia Healthcare Association.
The potential for rapid testing is that it may be available at airports, schools and big events.
Experts warn against thinking rapid tests are a silver bullet.
“If we do that, people may take a test and say, ‘Well, I’m good. I assume everyone else has been tested. So I don’t need to wear this mask.’ And what we may see is riskier behavior that could lead to a resurgence. So we have to use both,” Georgia Tech Professor Joshua Weitz said.
Rapid tests come with some accuracy issues, and also have not been approved for use at home yet.
Giroir said America can still defeat the virus.
“That shouldn’t dissuade us or deter us from doing the right thing and ending this by smart policies and smart testing,” Giroir said.
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