The White House physician says Trump has tested negative, but experts warn about trusting the results.

President Trump has tested negative “on consecutive days” using a rapid antigen coronavirus test not intended for that purpose, the White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a statement released Monday before the president began a rally in Florida.

The memo said the president tested negative on a rapid test called Abbott BinaxNOW, but experts cautioned that the test’s accuracy has not yet been investigated enough to be sure that the president is virus-free.

“It doesn’t make much sense in my mind that they should be using the BinaxNOW test for this,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an infectious diseases expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “But it’s one additional piece of information.”

The BinaxNOW, which costs $5 and functions like a pregnancy test, looks for a protein produced by the coronavirus. It is most effective when the amount of virus in the body is high, but is much less sensitive than the P.C.R., the gold standard laboratory test. The Trump administration has purchased 150 million BinaxNOW tests and plans to ship them to states for use in schools and nursing homes.

In an announcement of the tests’ deployment to states on Sept. 28, the Department of Health and Human Services cautioned that “results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed with a molecular test prior to making treatment decisions; this may be particularly true for negative results if there is a high clinical suspicion that the patient is infected.”

“Infectiousness should be based more on symptom onset,” said Dr. Ranu Dhillon, a physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. The BinaxNOW, he said, “could be giving false negatives.”

According to guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with severe Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, may need to isolate for up to 20 days. But it has been unclear when exactly Mr. Trump’s symptoms began, or how severe they have been. On Monday, he departed for his Florida rally without a mask covering his face.

Doctors said it’s somewhat reassuring that Mr. Trump has tested negative more than once, but said without more details from the more sensitive P.C.R. tests, it’s impossible to be sure that he is past the point of infectiousness.

BinaxNOW’s “real power lies in marking someone who is transmissible, not the other way around,” Dr. Mina said. “I think they’re mixing things up a bit.”

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Ex-FDA leaders warn against Trump manipulation of COVID-19 vaccine

  • Seven former FDA commissioners penned an op-ed on Tuesday warning against political manipulation of the administration.
  • The commissioners, including President Trump’s first appointee and former advisor, say the White House is undermining faith in science and contributing to skepticism of a coronavirus vaccine.
  • For decades, “the public knew we were speaking on behalf of experts whose judgments were grounded in science,” the commissioners wrote. “That is changing in deeply troubling ways.”
  • “If the White House takes the unprecedented step of trying to tip the scales on how safety and benefits will be judged, the impact on public trust will render an effective vaccine much less so.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump’s first head of the Food and Drug Administration has joined six other former commissioners in warning that the White House is undermining faith in science in an apparent effort to rush out a vaccine for the coronavirus.

For decades, “the public knew we were speaking on behalf of experts whose judgments were grounded in science,” the ex-FDA leaders said in an op-ed published Tuesday by The Washington Post. “That is changing in deeply troubling ways.”

The commissioners, including former Trump campaign advisor Scott Gottlieb, cited the president’s own rejection of FDA standards for a vaccine. On Sept. 23, he declared that such standards — ensuring any vaccine meets the approval of career scientists, not just White House flacks — “sounds like a political move.” They also pointed to “acknowledged acts of political influence on the FDA’s coronavirus communications,” including the scientifically dubious emergency authorization for convalescent plasma treatment.

That, they argue, is undermining faith in the FDA and causing widespread skepticism of any Trump-approved coronavirus vaccine. Recent polls have indicated that a third of Americans would refuse to take any such inoculation.

“If the FDA makes available a safe and effective vaccine that people trust, we could expect to meaningfully reduce covid-19 risk as soon as next spring or summer,” they wrote. “Without that trust, our health and economy could lag for years.”

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