Last week the federal government notified states of a plan to distribute Abbott BinaxNOW antigen rapid test kits. Arizona’s allocation is about 2 million. They’re promoted as “point of care” rapid test kits. The kit works by testing a sample collected in the nose and placed into the kit. The test can identify the antigen (unique proteins) on the coat of the SARS CoV2 virus in about 15-20 minutes.
Facilities that have a CLIA certificate of waiver can implement the test, though they do not need to be CLIA-certified laboratories. There are a couple of different routes on how this can be achieved, including applying for a waiver or being associated with a CLIA-certified or waived lab.
School nurses or school employees who have been trained can administer the test, but they’d need to be either associated with a CLIA lab authorized for moderate complexity or get a waiver. CLIA waiver certificates are easy to get these days and approval lies within the ADHS Public Health Laboratory, so presumably the kits will be used in the field mostly under CLIA waivers.
These rapid tests have a real opportunity to improve our response. Because results are available so quickly, it gives facilities immediate information that can inform decisions. For example, the tests could be used to screen visitors and staff at assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. Schools may be able to use it to screen students quickly and make decisions about whether to send kids home etc.
A welcome development indeed.