Top News Stories for the Week of October 26

States Begin Detailing Specific Use of 150 Million BinaxNOW COVID-19 Tests Distributed by Trump Administration

HHS News Release

The federal government said four weeks ago it would distribute roughly 150 million Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests nationwide to assist states' reopening efforts. Of that total, 100 million are regularly being shipped on a weekly basis to governors, while the remaining 50 million tests procured by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are being shipped directly to congregate care settings, including nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, home health, hospice, Indian Health Service, and historically Black colleges and universities. In their initial preliminary feedback, 32 states and Washington, D.C., said the BinaxNOW allocations are largely being sent to local health departments, K-12 schools, higher education institutes, nursing homes, hospitals, and correctional facilities. Alaska said it is sending tests to oil drilling sites, Mississippi to veterans' homes, and Nevada to tribal health clinics. Colorado is prioritizing local public health agencies to test homeless populations. Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS, Admiral Brett Giroir, MD, said: "Combining personal responsibility with smart, targeted testing is a proven formula to prevent outbreaks—but we cannot 'test our way' out of this pandemic. Public vigilance in adhering to precautionary measures is required—especially as we clearly see the onset of mitigation fatigue."

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Verily's COVID Testing Program Halted in San Francisco and Oakland

Kaiser Health News

California in March paid Verily, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet Inc., nearly $55 million in contracts to widen testing capacity in at least 28 counties, according to a spokesperson for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. About half of the counties received COVID-19 tests through six mobile units that travel among rural areas. However, the counties of San Francisco and Alameda are no longer using the company's testing sites. In a June letter to California Secretary of Health Mark Ghaly, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other members of the county's COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force noted that consumers who sign up for a test through Verily had to do so online, using an existing or newly created Gmail account. Moreover, the sign-ups were offered only in English or Spanish, and participants were requested to provide their home address and whether they were managing chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, or congestive heart failure. Dr. Noha Aboelata, CEO of Roots Community Health Center in East Oakland, notes that language in the privacy policy allows for sharing patients' data with third parties. Alameda County testing director Dr. Jocelyn Freeman Garrick said that while the Verily sites helped the county reach testing goals, they were phased out because of lengthy wait times for results, often a week or more, and because the tests were not reaching the residents in greatest need. Verily does not manufacture the tests used at its California sites, but provides a digital platform where people are screened for symptoms, can schedule appointments for tests at participating sites, and check back for test results.

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Real-World Utility of HCV Core Antigen as an Alternative to HCV RNA Testing

Medscape

An estimated 70 million people in 2016 were infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), a leading cause of chronic liver disease globally, according to a study in Journal of Viral Hepatitis. The gold standard algorithm for diagnosis of HCV infection requires serologic testing for antibodies and further confirmation of viral replication by HCV RNA testing. HCV core antigen testing can serve as an alternative to RNA testing, potentially helping to reduce diagnostic costs. The West of Scotland Specialist Virology Centre (WSSVC) provides HCV RNA testing to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board. Researchers identified serum samples that were tested at WSSVC from June 2011, when HCV core antigen (HCV Ag) testing was implemented, to December 2017. Serum samples testing positive for HCV antibodies (HCV Ab positive) followed by reflex HCV Ag testing during the study period were identified. From this group, samples that also underwent on-request PCR testing were selected. Researchers compared sample characteristics of those undergoing on-request PCR testing and those that did not. The findings indicate that approximately 20% of HCV-infected individuals could be missed. As a result, HCV Ag testing has the potential to be cost-effective, but it must be used with care, in particular in areas where HCV genotype 3 is the most prevalent genotype, the researchers asserted. They recommended that HCV PCR be performed on all HCV Ab-positive and Ag-negative samples, as per the UK Standards for Microbiological Investigation of hepatitis C.

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