New Jersey will soon receive 2.6 million kits to test for COVID-19 that can yield results in 15 minutes, which Gov. Phil Murphy said could be a “game-changer” for battling the virus.
The test, called BinaxNow from Abbott, detects active infections and will almost double New Jersey’s testing capacity over the course of 12 weeks at a time when cases are expected to increase. The test costs $5, but the federal government is providing them to the state for free.
Murphy said the tests could be sent overnight to a coronavirus hot spot such as Ocean County, where cases have been rising rapidly for more than a week.
“You could envision it being a big weapon in schools … a big weapon in augmenting our already ongoing efforts with health care workers,” said Murphy, who found out about the tests coming to New Jersey on a call Monday with Trump administration officials.
The first 170,000 kits will arrive in New Jersey within 10 to 14 days, Murphy said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization for the tests in late August. The Trump administration bought 150 million test kits from Abbott for $750 million soon thereafter and announced the rollout on Monday.
The test had an accuracy rate of more than 97% based on tests carried out on 102 people, according to Abbott.
BinaxNow is an antigen test that comes in a package the size of a credit card. It requires a nasal swab, but not one as deep as molecular PCR tests that are processed at laboratories. Those results can take days.
Admiral Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, demonstrated the test on himself at a news conference at the White House on Monday. He spent 10 seconds swabbing both of his nostrils before placing the sample in a small piece of cardboard and waiting for the results.
“It really could not be easier than this,” he said. “This is a very sophisticated little piece of cardboard with lots of antibodies and incredible technology.”
But the test cannot be used directly by consumers. It needs to be administered by doctors, nurses, school nurses, medical assistants and technicians, pharmacists and others, according to Abbott.
No company has been cleared to sell tests directly to consumers for widespread screening — a step some believe is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. The United States needs 30 million tests a week to adequately track the virus and protect vulnerable residents, the Rockefeller Foundation said.