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HHS sends new rapid molecular COVID-19 test to 5 states

By
Don Jacobson
Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir demonstrates a COVID-19 test during a briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House on September 28. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir demonstrates a COVID-19 test during a briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House on September 28. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Federal health officials announced the rollout Thursday of a multi-state pilot program for a portable, molecular test that provides rapid results for COVID-19.

The Health and Human Services Department said the new "point-of-care" diagnostic technology, developed by Cue Health, has been approved for use on trial basis in five states -- Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, Texas and Alaska.

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The nasal swab test generates results in about 20 minutes, Cue Health says. Previously, molecular COVID-19 tests had to be sent to a laboratory for interpretation, which can take days.

The new diagnostic test is the same one that was used by the National Basketball Association in Orlando, Fla., over the summer to curb the virus' spread in its "bubble" environment.

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"The Cue Health testing system will undoubtedly be a valuable addition to our testing ecosystem," HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir said in a statement.

"Having a highly specific and sensitive POC molecular test could dramatically improve infection control at nursing homes and other institutional settings especially."

The department said it shipped 27,000 of the test kits earlier this month, including 9,000 to Alaska and 4,000 each to the other four states.

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The department has already approved various rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 that can give same-day results -- often within minutes. Antigen tests, however, are considered a little less accurate and often must be verified by a molecular test. In the interim, a person waiting for the second test would have to isolate.

"With Cue's COVID-19 Test, verifying the antigen test results can be done on the spot in many cases," Giroir added. "The pilot program will help us determine how well the Cue test will be adapted in institutions and communities."

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