In yet another effort by the Trump Administration to prevent potential COVID-19 outbreaks in high-risk communities, we recently began shipments of the more than 500,000 total BinaxNOW rapid coronavirus tests to 71 of the total 107 selected colleges and universities across the nation that identify as historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The point of care BinaxNOW system is easy to use, requires no instrumentation, and will deliver reliable test results in fifteen minutes or less.
Unfortunately, African-Americans are five times more likely to be hospitalized from coronavirus, and a recent Administration analysis of HBCUs also found the schools to have predominantly minority faculty with other health variables making them a higher-risk demographic. Additionally, HBCUs often have limited resources, and many cannot afford coronavirus testing from private firms. Failure to act now could contribute to these institutions becoming newfound tinderboxes for infections and hospitalizations.
Receiving between 3,000 and 10,000 tests initially, each college institution will receive enough kits to test every member of its student body, staff and faculty. Each will be resupplied as often as required. The number of tests supplied over the duration of the effort will allow the HBCUs — many of which are small, rural and do not have the laboratory capacity enjoyed by larger colleges — to test symptomatic individuals and their contacts, and perform baseline surveillance sampling of their student populations a week.
If the school’s students begin to generate a significant number of ‘positives’ we can then pinpoint this spark before a possible outbreak occurs. Corrective mitigation actions can then be pursued, in addition to the possibility the federal government would surge additional tests and supplies to eradicate a potential coronavirus outbreak.
The United States has now completed over 100 million tests, leading worldwide in the number of tests conducted per capita for all countries with over 10 million in population. The Trump administration continues to rapidly build the nation’s testing capacity to three million tests per day, which vastly exceeds the demand for those advised to seek tests pursuant to Centers for Disease Control testing guidance.
The bottom line is that through smart policies and strategic testing – accompanied by surge testing in sites where there are outbreaks – our national plan to provide the right test, at the right time, to the right person – is working. In regard to HBCU’s, the Administration will continue its unprecedented commitment to ensure that communities of color are equipped with the necessary health and economic resources they need to continue our successful effort to combat this pandemic.