These 7 States, Including NC, Are Banding Together to Buy 3.5 Million Rapid COVID-19 Tests

These 7 States, Including NC, Are Banding Together to Buy 3.5 Million Rapid COVID-19 Tests

A technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples for testing. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

By Keya Vakil

August 6, 2020

The bipartisan state compact comes after months of testing shortages and delayed results, which have hindered many states’ abilities to reign in worsening outbreaks.

The United States is five months into the novel coronavirus pandemic and the Trump administration has still failed to develop a national testing strategy. Fed up with this inaction, a coalition of seven states have formed a bipartisan purchasing compact that they hope will push companies to ramp up production of antigen tests that can detect COVID-19 within 30 minutes.

Under the deal, all seven states—Virginia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio—will have the strategic and financial backing of the Rockefeller Foundation, if necessary, to purchase 500,000 rapid tests each, for a total of 3.5 million that can be distributed to address outbreaks. 

The governors of those states, which include three Republicans and four Democrats, are already in talks with Becton Dickinson and Quidel—the U.S. manufacturers of antigen tests that have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

The state compact comes after months of testing shortages and delayed results of up to three weeks, which have rendered them all but useless and hindered many states’ abilities to reign in worsening outbreaks. President Trump has been roundly criticized for passing the buck on testing to states and declining to broadly invoke Defense Production Act to encourage development and production of rapid tests. The administration’s policies are in stark contrast to the robust, federally led plan that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has proposed.

By banding together, the states hope to overcome Trump’s failures and pressure companies to increase production on the speedy antigen tests. 

“We do need to send a signal to the testing manufacturers that there is a market for these tests,” Eileen O’Connor, a senior vice president with the Rockefeller Foundation, told the Washington Post.

In a statement announcing the compact on Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan—who negotiated the deal—praised the bipartisan efforts of governors while leveling an implicit critique at the Trump administration for its testing failures.

“With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Hogan, a Republican, said. “I want to thank my fellow governors for signing on to this groundbreaking bipartisan agreement.”

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If the effort proves successful, it could dramatically reduce states’ reliance on private labs, which have suffered long delays. It would also allow contact tracers to identify cases earlier and prevent the virus from spreading undetected throughout communities.

“This bipartisan partnership will help us protect our families, the heroes on the front lines of this crisis, small businesses, and our most vulnerable communities,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat. “Widespread testing is one of the most crucial tools we have to stop the spread of this virus and save lives.”

Other states and cities might join the effort in the coming weeks, the governors added.

“Our intent is to benefit as many interested states as possible,” they wrote in a letter of intent sent to the Rockefeller Foundation. “We plan to leverage all available resources, collective expertise and proven cooperative contracting capabilities to enable a national cooperative agreement for national testing and tracing actions, which all interested states and their political subdivisions may participate in.”

Author

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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