As the country continues to expand coronavirus testing, Birx said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “we have to realize that we have to have a breakthrough innovation in testing. “
“We have to be able to detect the antigen, rather than constantly trying to detect the real live virus or the viral particles themselves,” she added.
In calling for a breakthrough, Birx was referring to one type of test technology – the antigen test – which is often used for rapid flu tests.
His comments come as more and more states anticipate a gradual reopening of their economies, even though public health professionals have repeatedly stressed the dangers of loosening social distancing measures too soon.
This is a problem because experts say that the ability to quickly identify new cases of coronavirus – and then quarantine those who may have been exposed – will be crucial to returning to a normal life.
Another key member of the White House coronavirus task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, made the point on Saturday, saying that the United States should double its testing capacity.
“We should probably hit double that in the next few weeks, and I think we will,” he said during the National Academy of Sciences’ Covid-19 update webcast.
Fauci estimated that the United States performs approximately 1.5 to 2 million Covid-19 tests per week, but noted that “the tests are an important part, but it is not the only one. “
Birx says test capacity is increasing but “breakthrough” is still needed
In an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Birx highlighted how the administration has worked over the past week to increase testing capacity – both by increasing laboratory usage and ensuring that governors are aware of the facilities available in their states.
“For each laboratory, however, they are now – they now have six or seven platforms that they have to integrate and use. And the labs are now learning how to get all these platforms to double and hopefully increase our testing capacity across the country and to really align the needs, “Birx told Jake Tapper of CNN.
“There is capacity, that the tests are not carried out. And I think that they have the swabs, that they have the tubes to transport the swabs, and then that all the laboratory platforms are operational, and this is the information we gave to the governors “, a- she declared.
Birx added that there are over 5,000 devices in the United States that can run these tests and we are very happy to see all of them used. “
Unlike most current tests, called PCR tests, antigen tests look for the characteristic structures of a virus. These structures, often on the surface of the virus, help trigger an immune response.
“I know that companies and diagnostic services are working on this now. We need to make a breakthrough, “Birx told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday. She suggested that current technology would only be enough for so long.
“This RNA test will certainly lead us into spring and summer, but we must have a huge technological breakthrough, and we are working on it at the same time,” she said.
These advances would allow us to “quickly screen large numbers of people,” added Birx.
She made her comments after “Meet the Press” played a soundtrack by philanthropist Bill Gates, who criticized the federal government’s “reluctance” to get involved in “prioritizing tests”.