Doubling Membership of Demand-Driven Coalition Committed to Scaling Up Access to Pandemic Testing
NEW YORK | August 26, 2020 – As the pandemic surges across the country, The Rockefeller Foundation announced today that nine cities and four states have joined its Testing Solutions Group, a bipartisan network of city, state, and tribe officials leading ambitious efforts to scale up testing in their communities as a pathway to safe and accelerated economic recovery. New members include the cities of Baltimore, Md.; Cambridge, Mass.; Columbia, S.C.; Dayton, Ohio; Madison, Wis.; New York City, N.Y.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; South Bend, Ind.; West Sacramento, Calif.; and states of Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and Rhode Island. They are joining the State of Oregon; Boston, Mass.; Detroit, Mich.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Los Angeles, Calif.; Greater Miami and the Beaches, Fla. (a partnership including Miami, Miami Beach, and Miami Dade County); Louisville, Ky.; New Orleans, La.; Tulsa, Okla.; Washington, D.C.; and the Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache Tribe through the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health.
In addition to being members of the Testing Solutions Group, Rhode Island’s Governor Gina Raimondo (D) and Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine (R) are also members of The Rockefeller Foundation’s bipartisan interstate testing compact for rapid point-of-care antigen testing. Announced earlier this month, it is the first interstate testing compact of its kind during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The interest of these cities and states to join our Testing Solutions Group reaffirms the growing recognition that testing remains the only way out of this pandemic,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “This bipartisan group of leaders demonstrates that the solution isn’t political; it’s about using data and basic public health to make testing effective and ubiquitous, while prioritizing those most at risk and in need.”
In April, when the country was testing around 1 million people a week, The Rockefeller Foundation pulled together experts from science and industry – from both Republican and Democratic previous administrations – to come up with practical, actionable solutions in the its first National Covid-19 Testing Action Plan, which included the formation of collaborative network of local leaders. The Testing Solutions Group began meeting bi-weekly to share experiences, frustrations, and best practices to scale up access to testing. This includes access to technical assistance experts to answer real-time questions. Topics of discussion have included how to ensure the safe reopening of schools, best practices for setting up a state-wide contact tracing system, and how to increase turnout for testing especially in vulnerable communities.
Then in July, when the extraordinary delays in test results started, delays that continue to this today, the Foundation launched a new National Covid-19 Testing and Tracing Action Plan to identify ongoing pressure points and assess progress thus far. Similar to the first plan, it still recommends that America dramatically increase testing capacity to 30 million conducted a week by the fall, but specifies that at least 25 million need to be rapid-result tests dedicated to asymptomatic screening, along with at least 5 million diagnostics PCR tests.
“One complexity in controlling this pandemic has been the high number of asymptomatic people who can transmit the virus to others even though they themselves have no symptoms,” said Dr. Jonathan “Jono” D. Quick, Managing Director for Response, Preparedness, and Prevention at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Health officials estimate up to 40 percent of new infections are transmitted this way, but right now, we are conducting very few of asymptomatic screening tests, which are needed for schools, health facilities, and essential workers to function safely.”
The Foundation’s Action Plan also calls for the significant reduction in processing time for diagnostic tests to a 48-hour standard turnaround time nationwide. This reinvestment in testing must also be tied to the basics of any pandemic response to really work: clear public health communications from trusted community leaders, robust contact tracing, and support for targeted isolation to reduce the contagion of the disease.
“Consistent testing by schools, businesses, and other institutions in our communities is the only way we will be able to sustain the reopening of our cities and states,” said Dr. Shah. “We must quickly identify Covid-19 flareups when they happen, especially in people who carry the virus but have no symptoms, so we can isolate those infected before they pass the virus to others.”
Last week, the U.S. conducted a little over 4.7 million tests a week, with the rolling daily average peaking at approximately 822,000 tests on July 29, dropping down to 611,382on Sunday, August 23, according to the data from the COVID Tracking Project. This is far short of where the country needs to be in order to identify whether someone is infected with Covid-19 and needs to self-isolate or has the common cold or flu. The shortage of tests, log jams of supplies, and slow return of test results have created extensive challenges for local leaders trying to manage pandemics in their communities. In order to meet the minimum 30 million per week testing requirement, plus quick turnaround results, over the next few months, major changes need to take place.
The Rockefeller Foundation hired Andrew Sweet to drive implementation of the National Testing and Tracing Action Plan. While providing strategic oversight to Covid-19 global response and recovery programs, he will ensure that that the Foundation is achieving critical milestones, while developing and managing strategic partnerships and relationships. As a result, The Rockefeller Foundation’s initial $5 million commitment for The Testing Solutions Group has been able to attract more than $7.3 million to date in additional funding from philanthropic partners.
“The Testing Solutions Group is key to achieving the Action Plan’s goals and getting our country back on track,” said Mr. Sweet, Managing Director for Covid-19 Response and Recovery at The Rockefeller Foundation. “By providing the opportunity for peer support and exploration, the Group serves as the focal point for identifying the most critical challenges and best practices and solutions based on real-time evidence and experience to solve them.”
To support the initiative, the Foundation is collaborating with the Centre for Public Impact, a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded by Boston Consulting Group to reimagine government so that it can bring about better outcomes for all people. The Centre for Public Impact serves as the Testing Solutions Group’s Secretariat, bringing experience working with over 75 U.S. cities to build the capacity of public servants solving society’s most urgent challenges.
Leaders dedicated to expanding access to testing for their citizens:
- “As we continue to work towards our goal of making testing available to every citizen in the City of Columbia for Covid-19, it’s crucial to partner with businesses and agencies that can help us expand and maintain our capacity. As such we are grateful to be included as a new member in The Rockefeller Foundation Testing Solutions Group, as this broadens our resource base and can increase opportunities to bring other organizations and businesses into our efforts, and thus potentially enlarge the scale of our testing outreach.” ─ Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina
- “Other countries have shown us that the only way to suppress Covid-19 is to implement a rigorous testing, tracing and isolating program. In the absence of a national strategy to achieve that goal, it’s incumbent on tribal, state, and local leaders to work with private sector partners like The Rockefeller Foundation to deliver on the model that’s been successful internationally. That’s why West Sacramento has fought for increased testing capacity and contact tracing since the beginning of this pandemic, and it’s why I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work with this dynamic group of leaders from across the country.” – Christopher L. Cabaldon, Mayor of West Sacramento, California
- “With our record-low transmission rates, we know firsthand that widespread testing and tracing is key to keeping our city safe. As we move forward to reopen our schools and restart our economy, we will continue to push on all cylinders for testing that is faster and more accessible for all New Yorkers. I am proud to join this bipartisan Testing Solutions Group to combat the further spread of Covid-19.” – Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, New York
- “To contain this virus and get our economy back on track, we’ve got to make sure testing is widely available and a robust contact tracing infrastructure is in place. As we’ve seen a second surge of infections, it’s clear that continuing to expand access to testing will help South Bend mitigate the spread of this virus and keep our residents safe. I look forward to working alongside The Rockefeller Foundation in its ongoing work to combat Covid-19.” – James Mueller, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
- “Illinois is a national leader in Covid-19 testing, with nearly 50,000 Covid-19 tests a day in-state, leading mobile testing capabilities to respond quickly to outbreaks, and potentially game-changing innovations in saliva testing developed in partnership with our State Research Universities. I’m glad our State is part of the bipartisan Testing Solutions Group that is working together to share key learnings and to push the thinking on testing even further. I’d like to thank the Rockefeller Foundation for their outstanding partnership and support in this critical effort.” ─ J.B. Pritzker, Governor of Illinois
- “In Rhode Island, we’ve responded to the Covid-19 crisis by taking an aggressive approach to testing. But we cannot take our foot off the gas. As we work to keep our economy open and send our students back to school safely, it’s critical that we have access to rapid testing. I’m proud to join this bipartisan Testing Solutions Group and am incredibly grateful to the Rockefeller Foundation for their partnership and support.” ─ Gina M. Raimondo, Governor of Rhode Island
- “Local governments have been on the frontlines of this pandemic, and one of our most powerful tools is testing. A robust testing strategy is absolutely critical to reopening schools, government offices, and our economy. In absence of a national testing strategy, it is extremely helpful to learn how other communities are approaching this issue. I’m grateful to The Rockefeller Foundation for convening the Testing Solutions Group.” ─ Satya Rhodes-Conway, Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin
- “The City of Cambridge is excited to be part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Testing Solutions Group, and to be connected to a network of leaders around the country working collaboratively and creatively to achieve our common goal of using science, data and testing to move our way through this pandemic. Increasing our testing capacity and learning from other communities gives us more information to lead our City and to ensure the safety of our residents. As our universities and schools reopen, and we reopen our local economy, expanding our testing and tracing capacity, especially for those most vulnerable, will be even more critical.” ─ Sumbul Siddiqui, Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts
- “We are enthusiastic about our inclusion in the Testing Solutions Group of The Rockefeller Foundation’s National Covid-19 Testing Action Plan. As with other difficulties that Dayton faced last year, including tornados and a mass shooting, collaborative partners were vital in bringing different strengths to address the challenges. As a new partner with us in the fight against Covid-19, The Rockefeller Foundation is working to develop and deploy strategic testing solutions in an equitable fashion to help us get ahead of this virus for all our citizens.” ─ Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton, Ohio
About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at rockefellerfoundation.org and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.