Tests from the Feds Could Triple Dismal Oregon Testing Rates

Per capita, Oregon has one of the lowest testing rates – generally testing between 30,000 and 35,000 people per week. But this week, the White House announced it would provide 100 million tests from now until the end of the year, and state officials expect between 65,000 and 80,000 of them, reports OregonLive. These tests could double or triple testing in Oregon. 

Along with allowing more aggressive responses to workplace outbreaks and overall more testing, the additional tests would permit officials to revise restrictive testing guidance. Testing will be explicitly recommended to those exposed to COVID through close contact, even asymptomatic individuals. The new guidelines will then align with those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

In a conference call with healthcare professionals, deputy state health officer and deputy state epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Jeanne said the recommendation would be significantly more explicit and should be announced within a week.  

Oregon officials are set to announce their testing plan next week as well and it is thought to include some testing for teachers and students. Though local officials are to decide how the tests are deployed, the White House said it would prefer testing teachers at reopened schools, healthcare workers, emergency responders, and communities of color.  

The test provided is called the Abbott BinaxNOW, a new technology that uses nasal swabs to test for antigens and presents results in 15 minutes.  

Antigen tests look for the protein on the surface of the virus, not the genetic material of the virus. While more affordable and easier to administer, the U.S Food and Drug Administration said on their website that the results for an active case are not as accurate as a molecular test.  

The agency said, “Positive results are usually highly accurate but negative results may need to be confirmed with a molecular test.” 

Oregon’s state health officer and state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said the antigen test works best for symptomatic individuals. Officials are unsure about virus detection in children.  

Oregon tests rates haven’t surpassed 41,500 per week, and due to the wildfires the testing for last month dropped below 25,000. The Oregon Health Authority has received 15,000 tests and is distributing them amongst counties affected by wildfires and long-term care facilities that needed to evacuate residents.   

By: Hannah Ramsey