The University of Washington School of Medicine went to extraordinary lengths to airlift tens of thousands of Covid-19 testing kits from China during a nationwide shortage of sampling swabs and the liquid that preserves specimens for diagnostic testing.
In short: a Seattle importer used a business associate in China, who had a connection to a doctor in the province hardest hit by the disease, to secure testing kits from a Shanghai factory and then have them flown stateside as soon as possible on an Amazon-chartered plane. UW Medicine allocated US$125,000 to purchase the kits.
The story of the testing swabs illustrated what authorities are willing to risk to secure more supplies for Covid-19 testing, which experts say will need to ramp up before distancing restrictions in Washington can be safely removed.
Late last week, the saga took a dour turn.
UW Medicine has decided to halt, at least temporarily, the use of the testing kits from Lingen Precision Medical Products, after a small percentage of the kits showed signs of contamination.
“I’ve just recommended everyone who has these things pause and not use them at all,” said Geoff Baird, the interim chair of the University of Washington Department of Laboratory Medicine, who was part of the group that went to great lengths to secure the materials. “I can’t say I’m not disappointed.”