Health Team

North Carolina joins initiative to fast track COVID-19 testing

Posted August 6, 2020 5:35 a.m. EDT
Updated August 6, 2020 7:00 a.m. EDT

North Carolina and six other states are participating in a new COVID-19 antigen testing strategy that could produce faster results and help slow the spread of the virus.

The antigen tests may be less reliable and have more false negatives than normal coronavirus tests, but experts say results come back in minutes, not days -- which could be key to slowing the spread of coronavirus.

As part of the initiative, each state will get 500,000 antigen tests, which are performed via a nasal swab. The tests are expected to yield results in 15 minutes.

Antigen tests should not be confused with antibody tests, which use blood samples to show if a person carries COVID-19 antibodies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Antigen tests are also important in the overall response against COVID-19 as they can generally be produced at a lower cost...and once multiple manufacturers enter the market, can potentially scale to test millions of Americans per day due to their simpler design, helping our country better identify infection rates closer to real time."

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan chairs the National Governor's Association, which partnered with Rockefeller Foundation to get the tests. Massachusetts, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan and Virginia, which have an equal mix of Republican and Democratic governors, have also joined the effort.

So far, 1.8 million people have been tested for coronavirus in the state of North Carolina. Testing appointments still fill up quickly, and most sites use a kind of test that yields results in five days.

On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper made the announcement that Phase 2 is extended until at least Sept. 11.

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