City Partners with University of Hawaiʻi to Expand COVID-19 Testing Capacity on Oʻahu
Expanded testing capacity is key to safely re-opening the economy.
News Release from City and County of Honolulu, May 19, 2020
HONOLULU – Mayor Kirk Caldwell and University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner announced an agreement in principle today in front of the John A. Burns School of Medicine to dramatically expand COVID-19 testing capacity over the next several months as Honolulu’s economy re-opens. The partnership will establish the JABSOM Tropical Medicine Clinic Laboratory that will provide COVID-19 surge capacity for traditional diagnostic tests, establish a new “antibody” testing program, and develop new methods to test for COVID-19.
“We can’t truly find this virus and work to contain it if we aren’t looking for it,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “From the beginning of this pandemic, testing has been one of the City’s three main focuses. The other two are contact tracing and quarantining. We believe much more testing needs to be done as we continue to get more of Oʻahu safely back to work. We thank the University of Hawaiʻi and the John A. Burns School of Medicine, along with Clinical Labs and Diagnostic Labs in partnership with our seven Community Health Centers, for working with us to increase testing capacity and make this transition to a more open way of life that is safe for the entire City and County of Honolulu.”
The new lab is being supported with $3.9 million in CARES funds from the City and County of Honolulu, and is being fast-tracked by the University of Hawaiʻi to be up and running in an estimated six weeks. The Rockefeller Foundation is also providing support to the project as part of a longer-term investment to ensure that Honolulu has surge capacity to handle subsequent waves of COVID-19. The Rockefeller Foundation has issued a national testing plan that calls for COVID-19 national testing capacity to raise from the current one million tests a week, to three million this summer, to thirty million by the fall in order for the nation to safely keep the economy open.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity to collaborate with the City and County, the Mayor and his team to leverage our facilities and our faculty expertise,” University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner said. “This lab will also be a crucial component for our ability to open the University of Hawaiʻi for the fall.”
The partnership will provide 50,000 diagnostic COVID-19 tests available to Oʻahu residents through the end of the year, administered in partnership with Community Health Centers around the island. In addition, 49,000 COVID-19 antibody tests will be made available as part of a broader population study to identify patterns and levels of COVID-19 exposure locally. The lab has already obtained a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) certificate of compliance from the State Department of Health and CLIA registration and will start securing equipment immediately.
“The UH John A. Burns School of Medicine is pleased to contribute facilities and scientific expertise to this joint effort with the City and County of Honolulu, and we believe that expanded testing capacity for on-island testing of COVID-19 will be important during the opening of the economy on Oʻahu,” said JABSOM Dean Dr. Jerris Hedges. “Contributing to new understandings related to this coronavirus infection will benefit the citizens and visitors to our island. We are pleased to help the Mayor and others in the City and County of Honolulu build a safer community as citizens return to work.”
The new UH lab capacity and test kits helps complement the City’s testing partnership with local private labs also announced today, and takes advantage of the strong research and data background at the University of Hawaiʻi.
The City-UH partnership will:
- Enable expanded, long-term COVID-19 test access for underserved, uninsured, and front-line workers who may require multiple tests for safety at their workplaces.
- Boost in-state private testing capacity to handle any future COVID-19 waves and surge periods.
- Strengthen the ability to secure 24 hour test results on island, and support rapid contact tracing and isolation of individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
- Identify patterns and levels of COVID-19 exposure through broad population antibody testing.
- Hire and train a medical laboratory technician and clinical laboratory scientist workforce that can build a pipeline of employment for the medical sector.
- Develop new approaches to test for COVID-19 that can reduce the cost of testing and decrease invasiveness—such as saliva-based testing instead of nasal swabs—allowing for broader testing to safely reopen and keep open the economy.
- Build longer-term capacity to identify, monitor, and diagnose COVID-19 variations and rare infectious diseases positioning Hawaiʻi to be on the leading edge of pandemic preparedness.
- Provide increased local capacity to do large group COVID-19 testing for both underserved populations (public housing projects, etc.), institutions (schools, etc.) and classes of workers (care homes, front-line workers) regularly.
To obtain more information on the City’s COVID-19 response, visit www.oneoahu.org
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UH lab to serve as hub for COVID-19 testing innovation
From UH News May 19, 2020
The University of Hawaiʻi will help to expand COVID-19 testing capacity on Oʻahu as part of a new partnership with the City and County of Honolulu.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the city will provide $3.9 million in funding from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and additional funding from the Rockefeller Foundation to support the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Tropical Medicine Clinical (TMC) Laboratory.
Through this partnership the TMC Lab will collaborate with Community Health Centers across Oʻahu and provide capacity to perform up to 50,000 COVID-19 tests and 49,000 antibody tests through the end of 2020. Funding from the City and County of Honolulu will also support research efforts at the TMC Lab to develop innovative approaches for less invasive and more cost effective COVID-19 testing.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity to collaborate with the city and county, the mayor and his team to leverage our facilities and our faculty expertise,” UH President David Lassner said. “This lab will also be a crucial component for our ability to open the University of Hawaiʻi for the fall.”
The lab will operate out of the UH Mānoa (JABSOM’s Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology. Vivek Nerurkar, professor and chair of the Department of Tropical Medicine will lead the operation alongside a leadership team that reflects UH‘s extensive expertise in virology, bacteriology, parasitology, and immunology.
“UH is enthusiastic about providing this service to our local community,” associate professor of Oceanography and Hawaiʻi Sea Grant’s Center for Integrated Science, Knowledge and Culture Director Rosie Alegado said. Alegado is the community liaison lead for the TMC Lab. ““Hawaiʻi may see an increase of infections as restrictions relax. We believe it is important that UH provides supplemental capacity in case there is a surge of cases. We want to be able to serve our islands as needed.”
The ability to conduct this testing could provide wider insight as to patterns and prevalence of COVID-19 exposure locally. The partnership can also bring JABSOM’s expertise in Native Hawaiian health to support culturally relevant care approaches and new avenues for addressing health disparities during the COVID-19 response.
Donate to the UH Foundation fund on COVID-19 research at UH.
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City Launching Massive COVID Testing Initiative
HNN: … “Aggressive, forward-leaning testing on COVID-19, it’s the way we open up,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell, at a news conference. “We’re now becoming a more open community in terms of the pandemic.”
Caldwell said the initiative would be paid for with $4 million in federal stimulus funds.
The testing initiative includes:
- 50,000 diagnostic tests, or tests meant to diagnose COVID-19;
- 49,000 antibody tests, or tests meant to determine whether someone has had COVID-19;
- and wastewater tests, or tests of wastewater in treatment facilities islandwide that will act as a surveillance system that would conceivably track upticks in COVID-19 in particular communities.
The plan also includes the creation of a lab at the John A. Burns School of Medicine that would not only conduct testing — alongside private labs in Hawaii — but track where surges are being seen.
Partnering with community health centers means the tests will be offered at no cost to the patient.
The mayor has called for more COVID-19 testing for weeks — and has grown frustrated over what he described as pushback from the state Health Department to his plans….
read … COVID Testing