The United States is still lagging behind other countries when it comes to coronavirus testing, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said things are improving.
“We’re better off now than we were a couple of months ago, that’s for sure,” Fauci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo in an interview Monday evening, although he said the US was not where he thought it should be in terms of testing.
The federal government plans to distribute 150 million of Abbott’s BinaxNow Covid-19 rapid antigen tests to schools and nursing homes, and Fauci says once that happens, coronavirus surveillance testing will really start to pick up.
“I think there’ll be more after that. I’m going to be pushing for more, but the initial one they’ve already committed to is 150 million of these point-of-care credit card-type tests that will be available to do the kind of surveillance that you want to do in schools, places like that,” Fauci said.
The Abbott test, which received an Emergency Use Authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration in August, returns test results in 15 minutes. The company says the test is 97% accurate in detecting positives and 98.5% accurately identifying people who are not infected. Abbott had trouble with accuracy in one of its previous coronavirus tests.
“I’ve been saying that we need to flood the system with testing,” Fauci said.
Testing is needed to identify cases so people can be isolated before they infect others, Fauci said. Testing is also needed for surveillance to find out what level of infection is occurring at the community level.
“That’s what we need to do,” Fauci said.