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6 states band together to secure rapid COVID testing

Bipartisan governors of six states have entered into a first-of-its-kind agreement to jointly purchase rapid coronavirus testing kits.

The governors — from Virginia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Maryland — said the goal of the compact is to show private companies that there is significant demand to scale up the production of these tests, which deliver results in 15 to 20 minutes.

The states will also coordinate on policies and protocols regarding the testing technology.

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Additional states, cities and local governments may join the compact in the coming days and weeks, the governors said. 

The states are in discussions with Becton Dickinson and Quidel — the U.S. manufacturers of antigen tests that have already been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration — to purchase 500,000 tests per state for a total of three million tests.

Five months into the pandemic, the Trump administration has yet to develop an efficient testing system. In the absence of a national testing strategy, states have been left to come up with their own plans and secure their own equipment. 

Across the country, the demand for tests has outstripped supplies, creating severe shortages and delaying results for unacceptably long periods of time.

The agreement would reduce the need for states to rely on overburdened commercial labs. For example, Quest Diagnostics said this week that the average turnaround time for a test result is five days. It's an improvement over last month, when it said average results would take more than a week, but still creates a potentially dangerous waiting period. 

"With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19," Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) said in a statement.

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Hogan negotiated the deal during the final days of his tenure as chairman of the National Governors Association. The Rockefeller Foundation is willing to finance the program if needed.

Rapid antigen testing may not be the most accurate, but it can be used to help detect outbreaks more quickly and expand long-term testing in congregate settings such as schools, workplaces and nursing homes.

"Widespread testing is one of the most crucial tools we have to stop the spread of this virus and save lives," Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerAtlas departure from White House cheered by public health officials Michigan restaurant raises K after defying state lockdown measures Ohio governor on impeachment articles filed against him: 'We have to do whatever we can to slow this virus down' MORE (D) said in a statement. "I’m hopeful that the president and Congress will follow our lead and work together on a recovery package that includes support for states like ours so we can continue to protect our families."