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This $5 coronavirus rapid test might do what the US government couldn’t

Published Aug 27th, 2020 3:22PM EDT
Coronavirus rapid test
Image: Abbott Laboratories

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  • Abbott Laboratories has received an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for its COVID-19 rapid test that costs $5 and returns results in 15 minutes.
  • The BinaxNOW rapid test is about the size of a credit card, doesn’t require any additional equipment, and Abbott plans to ship tens of millions of tests in September.
  • The US has had a disastrous response to COVID-19, but a test like this could improve the situation.

No country has had a more disastrous response to the novel coronavirus pandemic than the US. As of August 27th, more than 5.8 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and close to 180,000 have died, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. Those are both world records, and make it all but impossible to ignore how unprepared and unwilling the federal government was to deal with a crisis of this scale.

There’s no end in sight to America’s outbreak, still averaging over 40,000 cases a week, but more testing would be a step in the right direction, and a new test from Abbott Laboratories could significantly speed up the rate of tests being given every day and the speed at which the results are returned. Best of all, Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card sells for just $5, and the company plans to ship tens of millions of tests in September alone.

Hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 diagnostic tests are being performed every day in the US, but it can take days or even weeks to get your results back, depending on where you live. Abbott’s BinaxNOW rapid test doesn’t require any equipment and provides results in about 15 minutes, which means you’ll know whether or not you have COVID-19 before you even leave the doctor’s office, and you can take appropriate action right away.

Abbott is also launching a free mobile app for iPhone and Android devices which allows people who test negative to display a temporary digital health pass that is renewed every time they get tested.

“We intentionally designed the BinaxNOW test and NAVICA app so we could offer a comprehensive testing solution to help Americans feel more confident about their health and lives,” wrote Robert B. Ford, Abbott’s chief executive officer and president, in a press release. “BinaxNOW and the NAVICA app give us an affordable, easy-to-use, scalable test, and a complementary digital health tool to help us have a bit more normalcy in our daily lives.”

The US Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the rapid test on Wednesday. The clinical study the company submitted ahead of the EUA showed that the test has a sensitivity of 97.1% and specificity of 98.5% in patients suspected of having COVID-19 within seven days of having symptoms.

With tens of millions of BinaxNOW tests shipping next month and Abbott planning to ramp up to 50 million in October, finding out whether or not you’re infected should be far less daunting and time-consuming in the fall.

As we know, a significant number of people who have the novel coronavirus never display symptoms, and some of the most common symptoms are common for other viruses as well. But with this rapid test, far more Americans will be able to find out if they’re sick on the same day they get tested, and they can isolate themselves until they recover from COVID-19. This could be the first step to a more pronounced recovery from the pandemic for the US.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.