Massachusetts forms coronavirus testing pact with 5 other states

The agreement aims to pressure companies that make rapid-detection COVID-19 tests to quickly ramp up production.

Evelinda Villegas receives a COVID-19 test at the Whittier Street Health Center's mobile test site in Dorchester last month.
Evelinda Villegas receives a COVID-19 test at the Whittier Street Health Center's mobile test site in Dorchester last month. –AP Photo/Elise Amendola

In the absence of a national testing strategy for the novel coronavirus pandemic, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has joined with five other U.S. governors to form a first-of-its-kind purchasing compact they hope will pressure companies that make rapid-detection tests to quickly ramp up production.

The governors, three Republicans and three Democrats, say other states and cities may join them and that talks have already begun with one of the two companies approved by the FDA to sell point-of-care antigen tests that can detect the virus in less than 30 minutes.

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan negotiated the deal during the final days of his tenure as chair of the National Governors Association, and his office said the Rockfeller Foundation is willing to act as the financing entity if needed.

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Each state — Virginia, Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio, in addition to Massachusetts and Maryland — would request 500,000 million tests, for a total of 3 million tests that could be deployed to address outbreaks.

Having access to that many rapid tests would reduce the need for states to rely on traditional testing infrastructure, which primarily involves private labs that have been beset by long delays.

“With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Hogan said in a statement. “We will be working to bring additional states, cities, and local governments on board as this initiative moves forward.”

Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a physician by training, said in a statement that the states involved in the compact are leading America’s national response to COVID-19.”

“We are bringing together this bipartisan, multistate coalition to combine our purchasing power and get rapid testing supplies to our communities as quickly as possible,” Northam said. “The people in our six states want to see action, and we’re delivering.”

Hogan has sharply criticized the Trump administration for leaving states to secure their own testing.


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