The Trump administration will begin shipping tens of millions of coronavirus testing kits this month to state governors for school distribution, it announced Tuesday.
Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health, announced a plan to distribute 150 million Abbott Laboratories rapid tests to states where schools are reopening.
Giroir said Tuesday that the “great majority” of tests will be handed over to governors to use in screening children in the K-12 school age range. But some tests will be reserved for first responders and at-risk groups, like the elderly.
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Abbott’s rapid test is the size of a credit card and takes roughly 15 minutes to get the results. The test is the first of its kind that does not require specialized computer equipment and only costs about $5 a test.
The U.S. has largely relied on nasal swab tests that are then sent to labs for processing, since the onslaught of the pandemic. But testing backlogs from supply shortages led to delayed response times and affected the medical community’s ability to effectively track the virus – an issue the new Abbott test is attempting to circumvent.
Abbott’s test still requires a nasal swab by a health expert, and in some cases, a negative test will need to be sent to a lab for greater analysis, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The rapid tests are less accurate than lab developed tests, but officials believe these tests are the best option to expand testing ahead of the flu season.
The U.S. has reported more than 6 million cases of coronavirus, accounting for nearly a quarter of the world’s 25.5 million cases.
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Over 184,000 Americans have died from the virus, which us just over 20 percent of the world’s 852,561 confirmed coronavirus related deaths, according to John Hopkins University data.
While the majority of U.S. states have the option to reopen or stay closed with virtual learning classes, depending on what local health authorities advise, five states in the have been ordered by their state governments to reopen.
Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa will see schools reopen with mandatory in-person classes this fall term.
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Florida and Texas were among the most heavily affected states by the coronavirus, seeing large spikes in cases earlier this summer.
Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina are the only states to mandate virtual learning for the fall term statewide, according to Education Week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.