Apr 20, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus antibody tests see reliability and availability problems

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals

A medical researcher testing for antibodies against coronavirus. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Some officials fear that the launch of antibody tests may become as problematic as the U.S.'s diagnostic testing effort, as fears rise about the tests' reliability and availability, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The tests show who has had the virus based on antibodies in their blood, even if they were asymptomatic. These people may have immunity from getting it again, although this is still unproven.

Between the lines: The antibody tests could be useful for gathering information about the true spread of the virus, and for potentially helping high-risk populations go back to work. But in both cases, that's only true if the tests are accurate and reliable.

  • The Food and Drug Administration has taken a loose regulatory approach to the tests, allowing most manufacturers coming on the market to validate their own tests. These tests, some experts warn, may not be high-quality.
  • Federal guidance regarding the tests is confusing, leading to some providers administering the tests who may not be authorized to do so, or misusing the tests to diagnose the coronavirus.
  • The tests also have a high false positive rate, and may run into the same manufacturing problems plaguing diagnostic tests.

The bottom line: Antibody tests are an important tool in our coronavirus response, but they're a long ways from where they need to be.

Go deeper: How coronavirus antibody tests will help

Go deeper

Jun 4, 2020 - Health

HHS requests data on race and ethnicity with coronavirus test results

A nurse writes a note as a team of doctors and nurses performs a procedure on a coronavirus patient in the Regional Medical Center on May 21 in San Jose, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services moved on Thursday to require that an individual's race, ethnicity, age and sex be submitted to the agency with novel coronavirus test results.

Why it matters: Some cities and states have reported the virus is killing black people at disproportionately high rates. There are gaps in the national picture of how many people of color are affected, since the data has not been a requirement for states to collect or disclose.

Trump's week of viral quicksand

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Stories about President Trump's photo op at St. John's church after peaceful protesters were forcefully cleared from the area averaged the most online attention of any issue about the president this week.

Why it matters: Trump's force-over-compassion approach to the demonstrators protesting the murder of George Floyd had Republican allies backpedaling to keep a distance — and led to a wave of condemnations that got plenty of online traction on their own.

Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.