Pushing for Home Testing Offers Benefits but Makes Tracking Cases Difficult – NBC Connecticut
More and more people could soon test for Covid-19 directly from their own homes. The Biden administration said on Monday it is stepping up efforts to make rapid home tests more widely available, while cutting costs.
Covid-19 has been a part of life in the United States for over a year and a half, but the co-founder of a testing company says that at the moment the demand for Covid home testing is on the rise.
“Home testing is at an all time high,” said Jason Feldman, co-founder and CEO of Vault Health. “It’s largely because employers bring their employees back to the office, wherever they want, and then we have schools and universities trying to keep kids in the classroom.”
Vault Health produced the first FDA-cleared home PCR tests. Feldman says the increased demand for home testing comes as companies prepare to implement the vaccine or President Biden’s testing mandate. It will require all companies with 100 or more employees to ensure their staff are fully vaccinated, or require unvaccinated workers to provide a negative test at least once a week.
“Employers will be responsible for making sure their employees are able to return to work and stay safe. So with that, the number of tests required is going to run into the tens of thousands per day, ”Feldman said.
To help meet the need, the Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that it is streamlining its authorization process. The National Institutes of Health will spend $ 70 million on a new program to speed up test manufacturers through regulations. This funding comes from the American Rescue Plan.
“Every tool we have in our kit to reduce the risk of Covid is a step forward,” said Sheldon Campbell, professor of laboratory medicine at the Yale School of Medicine.
Campbell says, however, that the cost of home testing is still too high for widespread use. This is something the Biden administration has been criticized for.
“At $ 15 or $ 20 a test, they’re quite expensive and quite difficult to deploy for a lot of people. They’re too expensive to have much of an impact right now, ”Campbell said.
Connecticut Public Health Commissioner Dr Manisha Juthani said that while home tests provide quick results, there is one problem: There is no way to track positive cases.
“Home testing really does serve a different function, it does not serve the same function that we as a public health unit might do in terms of tracking rates,” Juthani said. “Certainly, we can’t follow them at a higher level, because their home tests, that’s exactly what they are, they won’t count against our rates. “
Feldman says Vault Health is taking action to address this dilemma. Clinicians monitor the administration of PCR tests through Zoom.
“The challenge with rapid tests is that we don’t know who is taking them,” he said. “We make sure that when someone spits in a tube or dabs their nose, it happens in front of us. We report these results directly to the state and the employee or patients, and they know where their status is, just like the state. It is therefore a very validated closed-loop process that guarantees the integrity of the tests.
Most home tests, however, do not have this oversight. Juthani says positive home results will be factored into state data when people voluntarily report these cases to a health care provider for confirmatory testing.
Despite the pressure for more home testing, she says vaccination remains the way out of the pandemic.
“We know this will be the way we don’t need to test so much, don’t need to quarantine so much, don’t need to isolate so much, because your chances of getting Covid are so many. less if you’re vaccinated, ”Juthani said.