According to a story on WRIC.Com, Virginia is trying to ramp up rapid testing for COVID-19 but health officials say it could be a while before the use is widespread.

Results for rapid antigen tests are generally returned faster than PCR tests–taking minutes compared to days. Though antigen tests have a higher risk of false negatives, health officials say they remain a critical tool for containing the virus.

Public Health and Preparedness Chief Deputy Commissioner Dr. Parham Jaberi is heading Virginia’s testing strategy.

Dr. Jaberi said rapid tests haven’t generally been available at community testing sites in the commonwealth because the Food and Drug Administration initially only recommended them for symptomatic patients. Earlier this month, the CDC published an updated guidance saying antigen tests can be an effective tool for screening asymptomatic cases.

“My best estimate is still weeks to months before the average Virginian can have access to antigen testing as readily as some of the other forms,” Jaberi said.

Those comments come more than a month after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam joined a first-of-its-kind multi-state testing compact to encourage increased production of these tests.

“The original purpose is, one, to make sure Virginia and the other states band together and get the best prices,” said Virginia Health and Human Resources Secretary Dr. Daniel Carey. “Also because manufacturing hasn’t risen to meet the demand, we’re trying to give that clear signal to the marketplace.”

At an August 5 press conference, Northam said the compact was a necessary solution in the absence of a national testing strategy.

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