Washington State Department of Health prepares to deploy new rapid COVID-19 tests

  • Mon Oct 5th, 2020 1:30am
  • News

Submitted by the Washington State Department of Health.

The Washington State Department of Health announced on Sept. 30 that it will be receiving and distributing the first batch of Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test kits for COVID-19 from the federal government. These are rapid tests that can return results in as little as 15 minutes. The first batch will include 149,000 kits, and the state anticipates receiving nearly 2.3 million total tests between October and December.

These rapid tests work best for and are approved for people with symptoms. This first batch will be distributed to community health centers, tribal clinics and critical access hospitals to increase access to COVID-19 testing in the communities they serve across the state. A plan for the distribution of future shipments is in development.

“Interpreting the results of antigen tests can be complex,” said Dr. Charissa Fotinos, the state’s testing leader and deputy director of HCA. “Based on what we know now, the state is deploying the first shipment of BinaxNOW tests for use in symptomatic people and possibly those exposed to confirmed cases.”

The first distribution of 149,000 kits, along with the benefit of rapid results, will increase access to diagnostic testing for Washingtonians, and particularly for priority populations. That will help individuals with symptoms get quicker results and assist all of us in tracking the virus and stopping additional transmission and illness.

The federal government is in the process of distributing millions of BinaxNOW tests to the states.

Details about distribution of future shipments will be available soon.

For more information about testing in Washington State, visit the DOH testing webpage at https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/.

Antigen test results now being reported weekly

The Washington State Department of Health started publishing a weekly report of positive antigen test results on Sept. 30 as well. Antigen tests can provide results in minutes, compared to much longer wait times for most molecular test results. Some antigen testing is already happening across the state, and that will only increase in the coming months, with more than 2 million Abbott BinaxNOW™ tests reportedly on the way from the federal government.

“The goal in publicly reporting antigen test results is to increase transparency not just into our process, but into COVID-19 activity statewide. People across the state need a line of sight into these results as these tests become more popular and accessible, so we can understand emerging trends,” Deputy Secretary of Health for COVID-19 Lacy Fehrenbach said.

Because rapid antigen tests are on average less accurate than molecular tests and haven’t been widely studied for people who don’t have symptoms, appropriate use and careful interpretation of the results will be needed, and will add complexity to the way we measure COVID-19 prevalence across the state.

For now, the DOH weekly report will include positive antigen results at the state level only. This report will remain separate from the molecular test results on our DOH dashboard, or on the governor’s Risk Assessment dashboard.

“Before we implement a wider application of this tool, we want to make sure we understand how to interpret the results, how to explain these interpretations, and how to use these tests to benefit the public,” Fotinos added.