Over 20 states aren’t including results from a type of rapid COVID-19 test in their overall case numbers, according to a survey by Kaiser Health News (KHN). The federal government is sending millions of these types of tests all around the country in an effort to keep up with the pandemic. If states don’t release the results from those tests through their public health departments, it creates a blind spot in the overall data.
The tests, called antigen tests, work by detecting a small protein on the surface of the coronavirus. They tend work much faster than the tests that look for the virus itself, called PCR tests, although they can be less accurate.
According to the KHN survey, 21 states and the District of Columbia don’t report all of their antigen test results. Fifteen states and DC don’t count positive antigen test results as confirmed cases, and nearly half of the 48 states that responded to the survey said that their antigen test results are probably underreported.
At the start of the pandemic, the majority of testing done in the United States was PCR testing. Then, the Food and Drug Administration started authorizing antigen tests in May, and over the past few months, others have started to enter the market.
Still, it took until August for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to say that a patient with a positive antigen test should be considered a probable COVID-19 case, even without checking for symptoms. Even now, the agency’s guidelines say that PCR tests are “confirmatory” evidence of the virus, and antigen tests (because they’re less accurate) are only “presumptive” evidence.
Antigen tests are appealing because they can be run outside of a lab, and could be offered in doctors offices or even in some schools. But that widespread distribution of tests can also make it hard for officials to report the results to a public health agency. One Virginia nursing home director told KHN that, if she started to use antigen tests, she’d have to hand-deliver results to health officials on pieces of paper. Some Indiana antigen test results are sent to health officials by fax.
Despite the data challenges, antigen tests are becoming widely used in key areas. The Department of Health and Human Services has sent millions of antigen tests to nursing homes, which have been devastated by COVID-19, and it plans to send hundreds of millions more. The tests have also been popular with colleges and universities, many of which are battling out-of-control outbreaks. Failing to track the results from those tests could make it seem like cases were stable dropping in an area, even if there was a spike on a college campus.
“The absence of information is a very dangerous thing,” Janet Hamilton, executive director of the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists, told KHN. “We will be blind to the pandemic. It will be happening around us and we will have no data.”
Microsoft outlines recent Edge browser improvements
The Edge team is also continuing to work on reducing the amount of memory and CPU power the browser needs. The Windows 10 May 2020 Update, for instance, reduces the browser’s memory usage by up to 27 percent based on the tech giant’s internal tests. Finally, Microsoft shrunk Edge’s size by half over the past year so that it doesn’t take up too much storage on your device.
Microsoft’s Edge browser recently overtook Firefox as the most popular Chrome alternative, according to NetMarketshare stats. Chrome still has the lion’s share of the market with over a 70 percent share, and Firefox isn’t that far behind, but Microsoft’s contender has been slowly gaining popularity.
Justice Department opposes TikTok’s request for injunction in new filing
The Justice Department filed its opposition Friday to TikTok’s request for an injunction against the Trump administration’s looming ban of the app, and the agency pulled no punches. The DOJ says blocking the the ban would “infringe on the President’s authority to block business-to-business economic transactions with a foreign entity in the midst of a declared national-security emergency.”
The DOJ also alleges that the CEO of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, Zhang Yiming, is a “mouthpiece” for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and is “committed to promoting the CCP’s agenda and messaging.”
Large chunks of the DOJ filing are redacted, including a section detailing where the DOJ claims TikTok stores US users’ data. The part that’s visible claims “US user data being stored outside of the United States presents significant risks in this case.”
TikTok requested the injunction against the ban on its app in the US, which is due to take effect Sunday. The company claims a Trump administration order violates its right to due process and freedom of speech, and asked a District of Columbia judge to block a rule that would require Apple and Google to remove the app from their stores as of midnight Sunday.
President Trump originally gave ByteDance a September 15th deadline to sell the video-sharing app, then ordered app stores to ban it effective September 20th. TikTok got a last-minute reprieve after the president approved a tentative deal with Oracle last Sunday.
TikTok sued the administration last month, saying that the decision to ban it exceeded the limits of the president’s power to ban an app on national emergency grounds. The company says it has “made extraordinary efforts to try to satisfy the government’s ever-shifting demands and purported national security concerns,” including changing the company’s ownership and structure.
TikTok did not reply to a request for comment late Friday.
A hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Sunday at 9:30AM ET.
Watch Amazon’s entire new hardware event right here
If you have to see the Ring Always Home Cam in action to believe that Amazon made a flying security drone for your house, then check out the video of its hardware event. The live stream wasn’t available publicly yesterday, but now you can click through the highlights on a YouTube stream (or just check out a 30-second ad for the Ring drone that’s also embedded below).
If you prefer text, we have a full rundown right here that covers all of the Echo, eero, Fire TV and Ring hardware unveiled.
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