Texas Private ER Owner Spends $500k on Coronavirus Tests That Turned out to Be 'Unusable'

A private Emergency Room in city of Laredo, Texas has been left with $500,000 worth of unusable tests that were intended to detect COVID-19 in patents. The 20,000 tests, which are already hard to come by, arrived late last month. However, they to be ineffective in the city's fight against coronavirus, according to The Texas Tribune.

As workers attempted to validate the tests to ensure their accuracy in the field, they were quickly determined to be unreliable, and thus, unusable. Given the shipment was of antibody tests, which only test an immune system's encounter with the virus, and not its infection. Meaning that it's unclear how effective the tests would've been, given the pandemic hadn't fully taken root in Laredo at the time. Not long after, the tests were seized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"We're very disappointed because we thought we had secured a supply," Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said about the ordeal. "It set us back, but we can't give up. Plan B is acquiring [tests] wherever we can find them.

The situation in Laredo isn't unique, as facilities across the country have reported a shortage of not just testing kits, but ventilators, masks and other protective gear designed to help keep them free of infection. It's caused concern that the Food and Drug Administration hasn't been keeping up with multiple international manufacturers that are peddling kits online. Scott Becker, chief executive officer with the Association of Public Health Laboratories, also spoke out about the fiasco.

"This is one of those things where, can you imagine, a city government trying to figure this out? This shouldn't be the process," Becker said. "The concern is that we're starting to see tests that have not been vetted, where we don't know their quality, and they are already coming into the country."

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Dr. Hector Gonzalez, Laredo's health director agreed, stating simply that, "We haven't tested enough. The number of residents tested is still too small to predict any model or scenario with any confidence."

Currently, there are 499,252 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 18,637 deaths and 28,790 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University. Along with following the social distancing guidelines through the month of April (at least), there are a number of ways that people can help out in their local communities as they continue to work to help contain the pandemic.