Seattleites have been volunteering swabs of their nasal cavity to contribute to a study tracking the spread of flu throughout the city. It turns out that this type of sample can be used to test for COVID-19 as well. The researchers then collected 2,500 samples and have been drawn into controversy as the New York Times reported that the team tested the samples for COVID-19 against federal and state guidelines. The local flu study researchers—clinicians and not physicians—began testing for COVID-19. Representatives from the CDC and the FDA told researchers to stop testing, but the flu study’s institutional review board deemed it ‘unethical’ not to test given the gravity of the situation. They actually identified COVID-19 positive cases. Now testing has stopped, and questions should be asked all the way around.
Local Test based on Imminent Crisis
The Seattle Flu Study has been a local flu test initiative based on a collaboration between UW Medicine, Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s and Brotman Bay Institute. Led by study director Dr. Helen Chu, apparently this endeavor adjusted course once the COVID-19 outbreak occurred.
They started testing the 2,5...
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