Honolulu joins the Rockefeller Foundation’s Testing Solutions Group to expand pandemic testing across U.S.
News Release from City and County of Honolulu, May 20, 2020
HONOLULU – The City and County of Honolulu has joined the Rockefeller Foundation’s Testing Solutions Group, a demand-driven coalition committed to scaling up access to testing for COVID-19. Other new members include the State of Oregon and Cities of, Louisville, Tulsa, and Washington, DC. They are joining Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Greater Miami and the Beaches (a partnership including Miami, Miami Beach, and Miami Dade County), and New Orleans, alongside the Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache Tribe through the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health to collaborate with other leaders and experts to find solutions to common challenges – and get their citizens back to work more safely.
“To face the COVID-19 challenge, our nation and cities such as Honolulu need every sector to pitch in and paddle hard together if we are to succeed in building more resilient communities,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “Honolulu is honored to partner with The Rockefeller Foundation on the National Testing Action Plan, and it says a lot about our grit and ingenuity that we lead the nation on testing rates and flattening the curve. We are looking forward to working with The Rockefeller Foundation and other partners to expand testing capacity to help put Oʻahu safely back to work.”
As an operational part of its National Covid-19 Testing Action Plan, The Rockefeller Foundation convened the Testing Solutions Group for the first time on Thursday, May 7. Nearly 50 officials participated in the first of a series of meetings designed to facilitate the exchange of best practices for public health authorities and federal, state, city, and tribal officials working to scale up pandemic testing needs from the frontlines in order to reopen their economies while safeguarding public health.
“Testing is core to ending this crisis,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “It's going take leadership at the federal, state, and municipal level to protect our workers and families and reopen our workplaces and communities, which is why I am thrilled to have such an incredible depth of leadership in our Testing Solutions Group.”
The Testing Solutions Group includes:
- City, tribe, and state officials who are leading ambitious efforts to scale up testing in their communities as a pathway to safe and accelerated economic recovery;
- Technical assistance experts to help answer real-time questions from members as they expand their testing efforts;
- Financial supporters to add to The Rockefeller Foundation’s initial $5 million commitment.
Achieving widespread Covid-19 testing requires combining data with local insights to determine where and how to reach all citizens. During the first meeting, Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director of the New Orleans Health Department, presented the city’s approach to reaching the most vulnerable communities and the importance of having a local face to their plan.
Lesson learned from New Orleans:
New Orleans reported its first coronavirus case on March 9, and two more the following day. Dr. Avegno, a native of the city who is also an emergency room physician and a professor, quickly identified community spread because the three patients had no connection to each other and had not traveled.
“That’s when we knew things were going to get bad really quickly,” she said.
Initially offering drive-by diagnostic testing in partnership with the National Guard, New Orleans officials quickly learned from mapping data that critical neighborhoods were going untested. They found numbers were low in some neighborhoods populated by the most vulnerable, including elderly, low-income, and those with medical conditions that make them more susceptible to Covid-19 like diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.
“It was very apparent we were not getting to the places that needed it most.” Dr Avegno said. “We knew we had to go into the communities.”
Recognizing that that they still were not reaching some of the targeted communities, the city began running mobile walk-in centers in rotating locations, setting up in trusted community gathering spots such as church parking lots and cultural centers in order to try and remove more barriers to accessing testing. Because of these adjustments, the city now tests about 250 people per walk-through site per day. While her biggest concern is running out of testing supplies, Dr. Avegno said that without community trust, “any message we need to give about the importance of testing and isolation and how to fight this virus, just won’t work.”
The Rockefeller Foundation puts its National Covid-19 Testing Action Plan into action:
As the largest public health testing program in the U.S. history, the Foundation’s Action Plan provides pragmatic steps to enact robust testing, tracing, and coordination to more safely reopen workplaces. Released on April 21, the Action Plan calls for:
- increasing testing from 1 million per week currently, to 3 million per week within the next eight weeks, to ultimately 30 million tests per week in six months;
- deploying a workforce of up to 300,000 Americans in a community health corps that would be accessible and allow for cities and states to scale up their public health workforce;
- facilitating larger-scale, longer-term pooled procurement that brings together the supply and demand side of the market.
The Foundation estimates that it will cost $100 billion, but will save money in the long run for the American economy, which is losing an estimated $350-400 billion dollars per month to the pandemic.
In order to help operationalize the Action Plan, the Foundation will convene its Testing Solutions Group regularly around a specific topic or geography, along with curating an online platform of resources to answer real-time questions.