Good news, probably good news, and bad news.
Good: Yesterday, California signed a contract with MA based PerkinElmer to provide an average of 150,000 tests PCR tests per day, with a maximum turnaround time of 48 hours built into the contract. The 7 day moving average of daily tests now in CA is 98.8K, so this would more than double capacity. PerkinElmer will build a new lab in the state and should be processing tests by November. Moreover, the cost of each test, now between $150 and $200, will fall to less than $31.
Probably Good: The FDA gave emergency authorization to a $5 antigen test from Abbott Laboratories. It doesn’t require a laboratory, and it takes only 15 minutes to get results. The kit, called BinaxNOW is, according to Abbott, “97.1% sensitive, meaning it correctly diagnoses those with the infection that often, and 98.5% specific, meaning an infection is correctly ruled out that often.” Antigen tests differ from antibody and PCR tests. They indicate whether a person is infected at the time of the test. They do this by detecting proteins like the “spikes” found on the surface of the coronavirus. In general, they are less accurate than PCR tests, which detect genetic material within the virus.
The value of an antigen test like this is its potential use in mass, repeated testing for schools and workplaces. For example, the UC involves more than 300,000 people statewide. Imagine if you had to give each person a test once a week. At the current rate of $150 for a PCR test, this would cost $193 million per month. Even with CA’s new contract with PerkinElmer, it would cost $39 million per month. With the Abbott test, at $1.5 million per testing round, you could even test all these people 2 or 3 times a week if necessary.
Why do I use “probably”? Because the BinaxNow test accuracy hasn’t been verified in the field, and the FDA, under political pressure from the White House, has lost some of its credibility (hydroxychloroquine, anyone?).
And the bad news: This week, the CDC changed its guidelines on testing, saying that asymptomatic people might not need testing, even if they had been exposed to someone who had COVID. The AMA was quick to question the wisdom of this change. Dr. Fauci, who was under general anesthesia when this change was pushed through, didn’t buy it either. Today, the CDC apparently walked back the change, saying that “Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test.” Gee, where have we heard that line before?
The even worse news is that the White House’s persistent meddling with the FDA and the CDC is destroying the credibility of those agencies. Kaiser Health News, for those who are interested, has a raft of articles discussing the danger of politicizing these critical agencies in the middle of a pandemic.
When you live in a country where the president doesn’t give a damn about you if you’re a Democrat or live in a blue state or aren’t as rich as he is, it’s a bit of good luck to live in a state like California, where at least we have a governor who’s trying to control the pandemic and return our lives one day to a semblance of normal. Yes, I know Newsom isn’t perfect, but consider who I’m comparing him with.
At the height of the BLM protests, I would get at least a couple of people a day asking their BWA (But What About?) questions. Under the guise of protecting America from the pandemic, they claimed that BLM protesters in the streets were just as much to blame for the rise in covid-19 cases as the anti-maskers and evangelical preachers holding inside services for thousands.
For those of them who were real people and not Russian bots, I have a question. Have you considered that if police stopped shooting Black men like Jacob Blake in the back seven times, there wouldn’t be a need for all these protests? Have you considered that a deranged Trumpster like the 17 year old terrorist/vigilante who killed two people in Kenosha is far more dangerous to public health than protesters marching down the street? Are you spending as much time sending letters of outrage to Fox News over Tucker Carlson’s apparent defense of this murder as you did penning comments to me?
And if you need an example of white privilege in its most vile form, this is it. Jacob Black gets his spine shattered by bullets, in front of his children, because he may have had a knife on the floorboard of his car. Meanwhile, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white man, gun lover, and Trumper, kills two people, critically wounds another, and then walks down the street with his long gun right past the police, who let him pass by. Rittenhouse isn’t even arrested until the next day.
This, all you BWA people, is why people are on the streets.
Up to date numbers available, even if not in this post
Interactive pages on zorgi.me:
- Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside & 92024
- City of San Diego + zips 92113, 92114, 92115, 92117, 92126, 92139
- San Diego County
- Orange County
- LA County
- All other southern CA counties
- State of California
- AZ, FL, GA, NV, OK & TX
Election Day is in 70 Days
Sick of the pandemic and ready for a change? Your vote counts, no matter where you live. So plan now: check your registration, make sure your family and friends do that, and motivate others to save our country. And don’t wait until the last minute to drop your ballot in the mail!
New schedule – every other day?
For what seems like an eternity, I’ve been posting almost every day. I’ve been contemplating changing that to every other day. First, I now have pretty comprehensive charts on zorgi.me for zip codes, cities, counties, states, and the US. These are interactive, and even if I don’t post on a particular day, everything is updated daily. Second, the public health departments have improved a LOT in terms of what they offer and how they display it. Things were much more primitive in the beginning. Third, I don’t want to post just for the hell of it. If there’s nothing very new on a particular day, it can wait until tomorrow. Fourth, I’m anxious to do some other things in my life.
Improving Metrics Don’t Justify Complacency
For the U.S. as a whole, covid-19 metrics are improving. This is not a time for complacence, though. Spain is an example of a country that had contained the virus, then opened up too quickly, and experienced a new wave.
There’s a commonality to the countries that have opened up their economies without experiencing drastic increases in cases: aggressive testing, thorough contact tracing, and very cautious lifting of regulations, based on recommendations from public health experts, not politicians.