Avid Labs, an Indiana-based company that is focused on innovative product design, has just announced what could be a game changing COVID-19 test that delivers results in as little as five minutes. This has major implications both in the short-term and long-term. Details are sketchy, but portability is critical. Approval from the FDA happened last Friday and the company promises to ship 50,000 kits per week starting this week.

Due to the shortage of commercial products, COVID-19 testing has been limited to those suspected of having the coronavirus and the results of the tests come back far too slowly. That is a critical issue since someone infected with COVID-19 can be infectious for days before displaying symptoms. Although the speed of testing is improving, many people, especially those at the frontline, including doctors and nurses, need to quickly determine whether or not they need to be self-quarantined to avoid spreading the virus to others.

Short-term, the objective is to scale the availability of tests to quickly determine who has the virus. As the number of kits expands rapidly beyond the triage level, a paradigm change needs to occur to prove that people are uninfected and are not a danger to others. This is a major shift in viewpoint and requires not only fast but also relatively inexpensive testing.

In such a scenario, a person who is tested could receive a badge with the time and date of the test, the test results and the length of time that the test is valid. That information could be entered into an online database for reference by authorized users and for analytical purposes.

In the short term, frontline medical personnel would receive that information on not only themselves and their fellow coworkers, but also anybody else that they come in contact with. This can quickly be expanded to all medical personnel and facilities in order to get them back up to full operations as possible.

This approach also promises benefits outside the medical industry in areas and industries, including package delivery, warehouses and supply chains, and manufacturing/production

Then we can consider the long-term. The great barrier that we face in resuming our normal lives is that without social distancing we face the risk that just one person out of a hundred or a thousand, can restart the epidemic. Let’s say every person boarding a plane has to be tested. The same is true of a hotel or a cruise ship. Or a factory and so on and so on. The goal here is to make sure that everyone tests negative.

Of course, cost is always an issue and who pays is always a concern. I suspect that we will find a way. Avid Labs could partner with other companies to manufacture the kits and therefore take advantage of the famous learning curve that costs will fall with increased volume.

Mesabi musings

Unfortunately, we have not seen all the horrors that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to impose upon us. However, rapid testing at a very large scale could help mitigate health concerns in the short-term and, in the long-term, might enable a faster and safer restart of the economy than would have otherwise been thought possible. Therefore, Avid Labs is to be commended for bringing this testing capability to the marketplace.