Major Investigation into Testing
The Congressman’s investigation into antigen tests has made some major news recently. “Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), the chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, said in a letter Friday that he is probing allegations that the Department of Health and Human Services distributed thousands of testing kits in a reckless manner, failing to provide guidance to recipients.
The Krishnamoorthi letter has not previously been reported.
The result, TPM reported originally, was mass confusion, the potential for underreporting of test results, and conflict with state authorities that had banned the use of the rapid antigen tests in nursing homes because of their lower accuracy.
The subcommittee announced the probe in an Oct. 2 letter to HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, who oversaw the ambitious program in which HHS and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services would supply every nursing home in the country with a rapid testing kit.
“The Subcommittee is concerned that HHS is not providing clear guidance on how to use these antigen tests, resulting in widespread confusion,” Rep. Krishnamoorthi wrote in the letter. “When used improperly, tests can create dangerous situations. Epidemiologists have shared a concern with me that if tests with insufficient sensitivity are used to ‘screen’ visitors to nursing homes, false negatives risk allowing entry to contagious persons who could seed a deadly outbreak.”
The antigen tests make a limited trade between speed and accuracy, providing less reliable results within a 15-minute timeframe. Scientists told TPM in August that the tests were best used and most accurate when testing people who were already showing symptoms that could be consistent with COVID-19 or other illnesses.
But when HHS announced the initiative on July 14, the agency stated that it would give nursing homes the ability to “screen and test” residents and visitors. That, Krishnamoorthi wrote in the letter, appears to conflict with the devices’ instructions, which say that the antigen tests “should not be used for screening of