The Briefing provides an at-a-glance view of some important developments in the information universe surrounding COVID-19. The views presented here are solely those of ECRI Horizon Scanning and have not been vetted by other stakeholders.

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The Rockefeller Foundation and Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy have outlined needs for effective testing and screening for COVID-19 in the United States. They call for local planning, measurable goals for infection reduction, adequate funding, and a sufficient number of tests.

In the coming weeks, the US government will provide 100 million rapid BinaxNOW COVID-19 antigen tests (see Scan, September 3-16, 2020) to states, with the intention that the tests will be used by schools to help children return safely to classrooms. However, the Rockefeller Foundation estimates that 200 million tests per month are needed to open primary schools, secondary schools, and nursing homes. Colleges, universities, and businesses (see Topics to Watch) will need even more tests. Best-practice plans to return to college campuses might add several elements beyond testing. These elements include modified facilities to ensure proper social distancing, improved ventilation systems, mandatory mask policies, public health campaigns, and a behavioral compact.    

And more tests are on the horizon. The National Institutes of Health continues to award grants to companies developing COVID-19 tests through its Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, and private companies and labs continue to develop new technologies on their own (see Horizon Scanning COVID-19 Supplement Status Report Volume 1, Issue 1).

College and University Testing Programs to Prevent Coronavirus Spread

At a Glance

  • College and university COVID-19 testing programs offered by clinical laboratories are intended to improve early detection and limit coronavirus spread, boosting student confidence about returning to campus.
  • Implementing a testing program might involve giving all returning students, faculty, and staff a coronavirus molecular test, along with an antibody test, at the beginning of the school year. Maintaining the program might require ongoing surveillance throughout the year.
  • Self-collection kits might help prevent health centers and clinical laboratories from being overwhelmed. Test results are available through an online platform about 3 to 5 days after central laboratories receive the sample.

Employee Coronavirus Testing Programs to Reopen Businesses

At a Glance

  • Employee COVID-19 testing programs are intended to limit novel coronavirus spread in the workplace and boost confidence that employees can return to work safely.
  • The programs emphasize simple and streamlined conditions that improve early detection of COVID-19 cases to limit disease spread.
  • Testing programs could range from less reliable screening methods, including health questionnaires and temperature screening, to more reliable screening methods, such as molecular testing with central laboratory test results available within 2 to 3 days from receipt.  
  • Employers and employees might have access to test results through an online platform.

Commentary in this COVID-19 Scan reflects preliminary views of ECRI Horizon Scanning and internal ECRI stakeholders.
The information contained in this document has not been vetted by other stakeholders.

We welcome your comments on this Scan. Send them by email to [email protected].

Posted: October 6, 2020

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