Abbott COVID-19 Rapid Testing Re-Visited

An Abbott ID NOW testing device for COVID-19.

by James C. Sherlock

When Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Daniel Carey spoke yesterday at the Governor’s press conference, he mentioned that the state had received some Abbott ID NOW platforms from FEMA, but that they were too few to be of any use.  Yet ID NOW platforms are point-of-care systems used at physicians offices, urgent care clinics, and others from which you may have gotten quick results on such ailments as strep throat in the past.

Abbott has authorization to use an ID NOW test module that can detect a COVID-19 positive result within three minutes and be confirmed negative within 15 minutes while you wait. Utilization of this technology could provide invaluable real-time data to help public health authorities combat the disease and quickly increase the numbers of people that are tested and the speed at which they are treated.

However, judging by their comments yesterday, the Secretary and his Health Commissioner have no information on the preexisting presence of those platforms currently in place in Virginia. There are now more than now more than 18,000 in operation in the U.S.  If the platforms are distributed in rough proportion to state populations, between 400 and 500 should be in operation in Virginia.

Abbott’s daily shipment of more than 50,000 COVID test modules daily equates to three per day per ID NOW platform in the Unites States. It is unlikely that shipments are perfectly evenly distributed around the country. But the numbers suggest that many people with symptoms could get the rapid test if Governor Northam emulated the Governor of Georgia and organized point-of-care rapid results testing in Virginia. Moving forward, the Abbott technology clearly will be one of the quickest and cheapest tests for larger and larger swaths of the population.

I have today (Saturday) provided information on Abbott Rapid COVID-19 testing and the statistically likely broad distribution of ID NOW platforms in Virginia to the Virginia Emergency Operations Center. I also gave them the direct phone number of Abbott Laboratories Molecular Division in Illinois. I had checked and the Molecular Division is working today. The EOC’s Emergency Support Function (ESF) #8 Public Health and Medical Services desk can call Abbott directly and get information as to who currently runs their ID NOW platform in Virginia and where the systems are located. They can also check on shipments of the COVID-19 test module to Virginia.

I hope we will hear about the results of that inquiry at the Governor’s Monday press conference.