Reaction and analysis from Harvard Global Health Institute’s Dr. Ashish Jha on ‘America’s News HQ.’
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Washington state’s Department of Health has recalled 12,000 coronavirus tests that were distributed throughout the state over concerns of possible contamination after finding the fluid in several tests were an unusual color.
Health officials issued the recall on Saturday evening after UW Medicine, a Seattle health system that procured the test kits, raised an alert about a potential “quality control issue,” the department said Sunday in a statement.
“Though the quality control issue has only been observed in a small number of tubes of viral transport media, we adhere to the highest quality standards for COVID-19 testing in Washington state,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “We are working with our partners to have them discard the product and will work to replace them as quickly as we can.”
The viral transport media (VTM) fluid is what preserves the test specimen during transport. Some vials of VTM were an unusual color and prompted UW Medicine to notify state officials, the department said.
A medical worker asks a young man to roll down his window as for a COVID-19 test at a drive-through (drive-in) testing site at Trinity University last week in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The thousands of testing kits were already sent to local health jurisdictions, tribal nations, and state agency partners across the state when the irregularity was noticed.
Health officials said they believe there is no health risk to patients because the fluid and patient do not come in contact during a test.
While testing completed at UW Medicine determined that the quality issues did not affect COVID-19 test results, health officials said they are recalling the test kits “out of an abundance of caution” during an investigation.
Due to limited supplies, the testing kits are unable to be replaced immediately, the state health department said, adding that a new shipment is expected this week.
Washington has at least 11,948 confirmed coronavirus cases and 634 deaths as of Monday.
Testing is an important step in determining whether states can ease lockdown measures that have shut down most businesses and forced residents to stay home and follow social distancing measures meant to curb the spread of the virus.
On a national level, President Trump announced Sunday evening that the U.S. had passed a major coronavirus testing milestone, telling reporters that 4.18 million Americans have now been screened – more than France, the U.K., South Korea, Japan, Singapore, India, Austria, Australia, Sweden, and Canada combined.
Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.