LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County officials Tuesday announced a rapid antigen testing pilot program, which could help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by providing health officials faster results.
Antigens are toxins within the body, and the tests will try to identify someone’s health irregularities before they are further along in their symptoms. Test results are delivered within minutes instead of days or hours, officials said.
The tests will first be administered to firefighters, and that data will be collected and then scanned by artificial intelligence software, with the hopes the spread of the virus could be better tracked, according to Dr. Neeraj Sood, the vice dean of research at USC.
Sood said health officials began giving the antigen tests to firefighters last week. “We’re using two types of tests with the firefighters — we are using a self-test where the firefighters can … get results within 15 minutes, and we confirm the results with a (polymerise chain reaction) test,” Sood said.
The first phase will be completed in the next two weeks, Sood said.
The second phase will provide antigen tests to the county’s COVID-19 testing sites and will be distributed to schools once they’re allowed to reopen. The second phase will likely last a few months, Sood said.
Antigen tests administered through the pilot program are a nasal swab, but they don’t need to be inserted as far up someone’s orifices than the earlier COVID-19 tests, making it a more comfortable method.
Detecting antigens in people who are asymptomatic could also be a significant way to stop the spread of the disease, as people who don’t experience symptoms may not know they are contagious. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service in early October announced a partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation to provide at least 120,000 diagnostic tests to pilot sites, including Los Angeles County.