U.S. Department of Health ADM Brett P. Giroir testifies before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 23, 2020.
Kevin Dietsch | Pool via Reuters
A senior official with the Department of Health and Human Services on Friday urged Nevada to reverse its decision to suspend the use of two rapid coronavirus tests in nursing homes, saying there was no "scientific reason" to justify its actions.
Nevada health officials have ordered care facilities in the state to immediately stop using two tests made by Quidel and Becton, Dickinson and Co. companies after officials said the tests had repeatedly yielded false positive results.
According to a guideline released last week, 23 out of 39 positive antigen test results from Quidel and BD were found negative by PCR. According to the document, this is an error rate of approx. 60%.
Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary at HHS, said Friday that false positives are a "reality" of the test ecosystem and are to be expected. Calling the Nevada action "unjustified", Giroir said the federal agency had sent a letter to the state threatening to take "quick action and reasonable steps" if the decision is not reversed.
This is an "unwise, uninformed and illegal" decision, Giroir said on a call to reporters. "Nevada's unilateral ban on these tests is against the guidelines of the HHS PREP Act. Federal law does not allow Nevada to prohibit or effectively prohibit such tests."
He said Nevada's action "reflects a fundamental lack of knowledge" about testing and interpreting results.
"Not just Covid tests, but clinical tests in general," he continued. "Science is on the administration side and administration is on the science side."
Giroir would not say what action the federal government was willing to take, just saying that the government has "a number of enforcement mechanisms" at its own discretion. He urged nursing homes to keep using the tests, saying, "There is no scientific reason not to do this."
The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to CNBC's request to comment on Giroir's remarks.
Quidel and BD tests can give results in just 15 minutes.
The Trump administration requires nursing homes to routinely test residents and staff to detect new Covid-19 cases faster. The coronavirus has hit nursing homes particularly hard in the U.S., and the administration has sent thousands of tests across the country.
Rapid tests were seen as essential tools in reopening schools and businesses, but the accuracy of the tests has continued to be an issue ever since
The FDA said it had received 302 "adverse event" reports as of September 30, including numerous false negative reports, according to Reuters.