See update below.
After December 31, 2021, CDC will withdraw the request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel, the assay first introduced in February 2020 for detection of SARS-CoV-2 only. CDC is providing this advance notice for clinical laboratories to have adequate time to select and implement one of the many FDA-authorized alternatives.
Hmm. We knew that the PCR test was designed against a wild-ass guess as to SARS-CoV-2’s RNA sequence, and that it would test positive for an array of coronaviruses. But look at this part; emphasis is mine.
In preparation for this change, CDC recommends clinical laboratories and testing sites that have been using the CDC 2019-nCoV RT-PCR assay select and begin their transition to another FDA-authorized COVID-19 test. CDC encourages laboratories to consider adoption of a multiplexed method that can facilitate detection and differentiation of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses.
I’m not sure what that means. It might be merely that they want labs to devise 2-in-1 testing for both ChinCOVID and influenza. That may be so doctors don’t have to go back and order a second test for the flu if the COVID test comes back negative.
But the phrasing could also suggest that the current CDC joke-test cannot differentiate between a coronavirus and an influenza virus. That would account for the miraculously nearly nonexistent flu season we just “had.” If the COVID PCR test pops positive on flu, everything is ChinCOVID. (see update below)
Update, 8/1/2021: According to Kaiser Health the reason for the change in PCR testing to “differentiate” between ChinCOVID and influenza is not because the test went positive for either.
“The CDC is pulling their test ‘off the market’ as a gesture to encourage labs to use tests that include reagents (primers and probes) for both SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza so providers, labs, states, and CDC will have better data this fall and winter to estimate how much of clinical influenza-like illness is due to SARS-CoV-2 and how much is due to seasonal influenza,” Polage said in an email.
Basically, my first guess was correct. In the past flu season, so few flu tests were ordered that they really have no idea how many flu cases there were. Since symptoms overlap so much, it was more lucrative for hospitals to just call everything COVID-19, and get the CMS bonus. In a rare flash of competence, someone at the CDC decided to encourage combination tests so someone could still track next flu season.
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