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Maryland Acquires 250,000 Rapid COVID-19 Tests

A CG image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 (CDC)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A CG image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 (CDC)

Maryland is acquiring 250,000 rapid COVID-19 tests, which will be put to immediate use, Gov. Larry Hogan said during a press conference Thursday. The tests are the first batch expected to result from an agreement by Maryland and nine other states with the Rockefeller Foundation.


The new rapid antigen tests yield results in 15 minutes, Hogan said during an event at the Sparks headquarters of Becton, Dickinson and Company, the maker of the tests.


“Our plan is to begin deploying these rapid tests to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in order to test all residents, staff and visitors, and to our correctional and juvenile detention centers,” Hogan said. “We're also in discussions to send them to dormitories and campuses of our colleges and universities.”


At these congregate care facilities, the rapid tests will likely be used to detect the virus in people who do not have symptoms, said Dennis Schrader, the state health department’s chief operating officer and head of the state’s testing taskforce, while people who have symptoms should still get the PCR tests available now.


The antigen tests are “very accurate,” said Dave Hickey, worldwide president of integrated diagnostic solutions at BD.


However, they can yield false positives, Hogan said. 


They also will not replace the PCR tests already in use at testing sites throughout the state. In fact, Hogan said, someone who tests positive for COVID-19 using an antigen test will likely need to get a subsequent PCR test. 


But Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah called the tests a “breakthrough.” He said they will be particularly useful in places where the virus is spreading quickly.


“It might be possible for school kids, for example, to get tested once or twice a week if they’re in a community where the level of community transmission warrants that in order to keep a school open and operational,” Shah said.


Together, the 10 states that are part of the agreement have signed on to purchase five million tests — 500,000 each. However, Hogan said the group of states could end up purchasing additional tests later.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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