If you’re wondering why the White House has suddenly become a COVID-19 hot spot, a new report from New York University may help shed some light on the issue.
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The findings from the NYU analysis show that the highly-touted high-speed coronavirus testing system from Abbott Laboratories provides falsely negative results anywhere from 33% to 48% of the time, far above the 0.02% false-negative results rate claimed by the company.
While the results from NYU have yet to confirmed, replicated, or vetted by other scientists, if the initial reports prove to be true, then the rapid-testing that Donald Trump has taken to trumpeting may have been providing a false sense of security to White House personnel as many asymptomatic cases among the staff may have been missed.
With such high-profile officials as Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller — wife of extreme anti-immigration advocate Stephen Miller — as well as one of the president’s personal valets and 11 Secret Service members having tested positive for the virus, some White House staff describe themselves as terrified to go to work each day now, feeling that the cramped working conditions in the building leave them vulnerable to the virus Trump has described as “the invisible enemy.”
According to Bloomberg News, which broke the story of the potentially inaccurate testing results:
“The White House is frequently testing staff, governors, lawmakers, reporters and others who come in close contact with the president using ID Now. The testing machine, which is roughly the size of a toaster, is portable and doesn’t require deep nasal swabs, about which President Donald Trump once said there is ‘nothing pleasant.’”
‘Trump touted the Abbott machine with great fanfare in the White House Rose Garden after the Food and Drug Administration approved it for emergency use, saying it could be a godsend for hospitals and workplaces because it ‘delivers lightning-fast results in as little as five minutes.’”
“’That’s a whole new ballgame,’ the president said at the March 30 event.”
Previously, Abbott Laboratories identified potential issues with high false-negative rates when samples collected from patients were transported in a liquid media that could dilute the test and lead to inaccurate results.
While the company took measures to provide clinicians with information to prevent this issue, the NYU study showed that using completely dry nasal swabs to conduct the tests reduced their accuracy even further.
Abbott Laboratories’ response to the test mirrored the president’s overall response to the coronavirus crisis, immediate denial.
“It’s unclear if the samples were tested correctly, and we’re further evaluating the results. The test is performing as expected when it’s used correctly,” an Abbott spokeswoman, Darcy Ross, said.
With the FDA under pressure to approve testing regimens without the normal vetting processes due to the emergency situation, doctors are concerned about the accuracy of the test results that they are getting back from patients who show obvious symptoms of COVID-19 yet repeatedly test negative before eventually testing positive.
It’s ironic that one of Trump’s own over-hyped “solutions” to America’s testing capacity problem may be the cause of the explosion of contagion in the very White house in which he “works,” dwells, and tweets.
Still, even with a 52% accuracy rate, the Abbott rapid COVID-19 test is right more often than Trump himself.
“Waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool says to push on” as Pete Seeger once sang about the Vietnam War.
The U.S. is now neck-deep in the Big Muddy and our modern, enormous fool is saying: open the floodgates.
To borrow a phrase from conservative saint Nancy Reagan: “Just say no!”
Stay home if you can, stay safe, and don’t sacrifice your health to help foster Trump’s bid for another term.
Original reporting by Michelle Fay Cortez, Robert Langreth, and Kristen V. Brown at Bloomberg News.
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