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The Rockefeller Foundation Adds New Members to Testing Solutions Group to Expand Pandemic Testing Across U.S.

NEW YORK | May 14, 2020 – The Rockefeller Foundation announced that five new members have joined its Testing Solutions Group, a demand-driven coalition committed to scaling up access to testing for Covid-19. New members include the State of Oregon and Cities of Honolulu, 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.

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 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.

Leaders dedicated to expanding access to testing for their citizens:

  • “We know that fighting and defeating this virus takes a city-wide, region-wide, and nation-wide effort. We appreciate the work of The Rockefeller Foundation to support localities as we continue working to save lives and blunt the spread of this virus through our communities. Through enhanced testing and contact tracing, we can better understand who has the virus and who has been exposed to it. And with that information, we can get ahead of the virus, contain it, and prepare to safely and sustainably reopen.” – Muriel Bowser, Mayor of Washington, DC
  • “We are excited to join this national effort led by The Rockefeller Foundation to address a critical need in this pandemic. Testing, contact tracing, and accurate data are crucial tools we need to bring to scale as we address, respond, and recover during this crisis. I look forward to working with colleagues from across the country to bring this National Action Plan to fruition.”- G.T. Bynum, Mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • “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. 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.” – Kirk Caldwell, Mayor of Honolulu, Hawaii
  • “Testing has been a key component in the fight against COVID-19 and will be integral to the safe and phased reopening of New Orleans. Because of the successful testing measures we have taken, we were able to reduce the transmission rate more than any other U.S. city weeks ago. Consistent and bold action will show results. I want to thank The Rockefeller Foundation for being an unwavering partner to our city and for uniting leadership at all levels behind robust testing efforts to slow the spread and protect our people.” – LaToya Cantrell, Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana
  • “Expanding testing and contact tracing are going to be key to our ability to defeat COVID-19 and we are fortunate to have the strong backing and partnership of The Rockefeller Foundation in this effort.  Detroit has had great success with some of our testing strategies, such as our universal rapid testing of all nursing home residents, in reducing the number of infections and deaths.  We look forward to sharing our experiences and learning from other members of the Testing Solutions Group as we all look to further expanding our testing capacity in the most effective ways possible.” – Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit
  • “We greatly appreciate the national leadership of The Rockefeller Foundation during this crisis and their selection of Louisville as a coalition member. This involvement will mean broader COVID-19 testing in Louisville and better outcomes for our community.” – Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky
  • “Testing is absolutely central to our COVID-19 response – because it’s critical to our ability to track, trace, and ultimately stop the spread of this virus. We wasted no time ramping up our capacity to test everyone in Los Angeles, with or without symptoms – and by connecting our efforts to fellow cities nationwide, The Rockefeller Foundation has equipped us with another essential tool in our fight to save lives.” – Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, California
  • “The strong partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation provides our community additional expertise and resources to help us elevate our testing and contact tracing efforts. It’s important we don’t fly blind and that we use a data-driven approach to navigate a phased reopening plan.” – Dan Gelber, Mayor of Miami Beach, Florida
  • “We are very grateful that The Rockefeller Foundation has included consideration of our Native American needs in their national initiative to design testing solutions for COVID-19.  Our tribal leaders who govern the White Mountain Apache Tribe will use expanded diagnostic testing and antibody testing to know when it’s safe to open up and restart our economy. We are doing everything in our power to protect our people during this pandemic.” – Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, Chairwoman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe
  • “Testing is critical to slow the spread of COVID-19 disease. Despite a shortage of resources, Navajo Nation has been working to secure more test kits and now we are testing our Navajo people at a higher rate than the national average, but we know much more is needed. We are pleased to join The Rockefeller Foundation and other leaders across the country to bring Native voices to the Testing Solutions Group.” – Jonathan Nez, President of the Navajo Nation
  • “Our community embraced the importance of testing since the very beginning of this crisis.  Our strategic partnerships have been crucial in making Florida the third most-tested state in the country and our partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation will keep pushing Miami towards being able to navigate a safe and effective reopening strategy.” – Francis Suarez, Mayor of Miami, Florida
  • “One of the keys to recovery is more testing, which is why in Boston we have been actively working to increase its availability in our neighborhoods and have committed to testing at least 1,500 residents per day. Public health models tell us that the more testing we can do, the more we can reduce our positive infection rate. We are proud to partner with The Rockefeller Foundation and leaders from across America to exchange best practices on testing expansion, and learn from one another, as we collectively work towards moving our cities and towns forward safely out of this public health crisis.” – Martin J. Walsh, Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts

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.

Media Contact
Ashley Chang
achang@rockfound.org
1-917-373-9530

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