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Calls for more rapid tests in US to fight virus

Virus Outbreak
Posted at 1:12 PM, Feb 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-06 13:12:31-05

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden vows to get younger students back to the classroom by spring, and some health experts look forward to the U.S. refocusing coronavirus tests to rapid home screenings.

Biden is using the Defense Production Act to scale up supplies needed for rapid tests. On Friday, the White House announced six manufacturers will mass produce the tests, with the goal of providing 60 million by the end of the summer.

Some experts say rapid home tests are cheaper, faster and may improve the chances of identifying sick people during the early days of infection, when they are most contagious.

Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard University testing specialist, calls the rapid tests a “public health screening test.” An estimated 40% of people infected don’t develop symptoms. Mina says rapid tests have the clear advantage over the predominant genetic lab tests, which are more accurate but can take several days for results and allow for silent spreading of the virus.

Some universities and school systems have used rapid tests to help stay open during the pandemic.

The coronavirus is killing more than 3,000 Americans per day. The nation’s confirmed death toll is nearly 460,000.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.