Hogan: Hand-held, rapid COVID-19 tests coming to Maryland

Maryland’s governor said Thursday the state will soon have thousands of hand-held COVID-19 antigen tests that can deliver results in 15 minutes.

Calling it state-of-the-art technology, Gov. Larry Hogan explained how he’s teaming up with other states to make tests available.

Hogan said Maryland is in the first group of a 10-state compact to move forward in purchasing 250,000 rapid point-of-care antigen tests.

“We decided rather than just have the state of Maryland work on our own acquisition of these tests, and competing with the other states for access … together with the Rockefeller Foundation, perhaps we could put together a compact with other states,” Hogan said.

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The plan between the states, which includes Virginia, is to secure 5 million tests — 500,000 per state, Hogan said.

“Our plan to being deploying these rapid tests to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, in order to tests all residents, staff and visitors and to our correctional and juvenile detention centers. We’re also in discussions to send them to dormitories and campuses of our colleges and universities.”

The first states to sign on were Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Louisiana, Ohio and Virginia. Since then, North Carolina, Arkansas, Utah and Rhode Island have joined.

Hogan said the rapid testing will not only help identify cluster outbreaks such as those that happened in nursing homes and poultry processing plants, but will allow participating states to put their economies back on track at a faster rate.

“These rapid tests will not take the place of our PCR diagnostic molecular tests, which continue to be the backbone of the state’s long-term testing strategy,” Hogan said.

The states are in discussions with Maryland-based test manufacturer Becton Dickinson and Quidel, the U.S. manufacturers of antigen tests that have already been authorized by the FDA.

Hogan secured the deal with the Rockefeller Foundation in his final days as chair of the National Governors Association. The initial agreement includes six governors — three Republicans and three Democrats.

“The states are leading America’s national response to COVID-19,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.We are bringing together this bipartisan, multi-state coalition to combine our purchasing power and get rapid testing supplies to our communities as quickly as possible. The people in our six states want to see action, and we’re delivering.”

The Rockefeller Foundation will assist in facilitating financing to support this large-scale interstate testing compact, said the president of the foundation, Dr. Rajiv Shah.

“We are committed to helping communities across America avoid the tragic consequences of this disease by expanding the use of the latest diagnostic and screening tests so those unwittingly spreading COVID can be isolated and supported,” Shah said. “I am grateful to Govs. Hogan, [Louisiana’s John] Bel Edwards, [Massachusetts’ Charlie] Baker, [Michigan’s Gretchen] Whitmer, [Ohio’s Mike] DeWine and Northam for their leadership and partnerships to give workers, teachers, students and vulnerable people the confidence they need to be safe until a vaccine is developed and proven effective.”

It’s not clear when the first tests will be distributed.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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