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COVID-19 swab used by NY schools was tested in clinical trial at Strong Memorial

Abbott COVID-19 test kit.
Abbott COVID-19 test kit.

The rapid COVID-19 tests being used by schools in New York state has a connection to a local hospital.

The test takes about 15 minutes to process, and it’s being used in schools in Monroe County since parts of the county are within the state designation of a ‘yellow zone.’

Among other things, that requires that 20% of students and staff be tested for the coronavirus on a weekly basis.

The test is manufactured by Abbott, the medical devices and health care company, and Strong Memorial Hospital was one of the sites used in the clinical trial that led to the approval of the simple test that involves a nasal swab and a card that it’s placed into which shows whether the person is positive or not for the virus.

Lead researcher Kian Merchant-Borna notes that having this test doesn’t stop the need to take other precautions.

"It’s important to recognize though, that this is still just one of the tools that we have in our toolbox," Merchant-Borna said. "Other tools being social distancing and hand sanitation, and eventually a vaccine. This rapid test is still just one of those tools that we can use to better get a grasp on this pandemic as things progress."

Merchant-Borna said that the test is much more accurate than anticipated.

"It’s able to accurately diagnose individuals with COVID-19, 97% of the time, and so, correctly ID’s 97% of the positives and correctly identifies 98.5%  of the negative cases, which is really exceptional for an antigen test," Merchant-Borna explained.

Right now the Abbott test can only be used under certain conditions, but he’s hopeful that someday it will be approved for wider use by the general public. 

The University of Rochester is using the rapid Abbott tests for undergraduate students who live on the River Campus. Eastman School of Music students will also be required to get COVID tested before departing from campus for the semester.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.