(The Center Square) — Governors of six states have agreed to work with the Rockefeller Foundation to purchase three million “rapid point-of-care” tests for COVID-19, officials announced Tuesday.
By banding together, officials in Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts say they are demonstrating to private manufacturers that there is significant demand to scale up the production of the antigen tests, which deliver results in 15-20 minutes. Commercial labs often take several days to report results, which makes monitoring and controlling the spread of the disease more difficult.
Rapid access to testing is crucial in the fight against COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
“COVID does not know any borders and by working together we strengthen our response, improve testing access and ultimately help our communities become safer and healthier,” Edwards said.
Edwards’ emphasis on speed was echoed by Ohio’s Mike DeWine.
“Time is of the essence, which is why I am pleased to join with my fellow governors to work together to expand the use of rapid, point-of-care antigen tests in order to help to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our states,” DeWine said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan negotiated the agreement with the Rockefeller Foundation near the end of his term as chairman of the National Governors Association. The states are in discussions with Becton Dickinson and Quidel – the U.S. manufacturers of antigen tests that have already been authorized by the FDA – to purchase 500,000 tests per state, for a total of three million tests, officials said.
The multistate pact includes three Republican governors and three Democratic ones. The expected cost was not immediately available.
“This bipartisan partnership will help us protect our families, the heroes on the front lines of this crisis, small businesses, and our most vulnerable communities,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Widespread testing is one of the most crucial tools we have to stop the spread of this virus and save lives.”
This interstate cooperative purchasing agreement is meant to provide a unique platform to purchase tests and associated supplies in a sustainable and cost-effective manner. State leaders say they will coordinate on policies and protocols regarding rapid antigen testing technology.
“The states are leading America’s national response to COVID-19,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. “We are bringing together this bipartisan, multi-state coalition to combine our purchasing power and get rapid testing supplies to our communities as quickly as possible. The people in our six states want to see action, and we’re delivering.”
David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.