Interior provides funding to procure COVID-19 testing materials for Pacific Territories
Washington, D.C. — On Thursday U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Douglas W. Domenech announced $858,924 in Technical Assistance Program (TAP) emergency grant funding to the Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA) to procure GeneXpert testing kits and a machine for the U.S. Pacific territories and freely associated states so that they may now conduct on-island testing during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Funding will be used to purchase newly developed COVID-19 testing kits for American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as well as the freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Funds will also be used to purchase one GeneXpert back-up machine for the region.
“Secretary Bernhardt and I are pleased to support the purchase of testing materials and the machine in facilitating island health officials to conduct on-site testing for COVID-19 cases during this pandemic,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech. “Travel restrictions imposed to protect island communities from COVID-19 have delayed and restricted options for centralized lab testing services, but recent Emergency Use Authorization announcements made by President Trump and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have opened other opportunities for on-site testing. This is critical for island area health officials as they work to protect their communities,” concluded Domenech.
The PIHOA has confirmed that all health departments in the Pacific territories and the freely associated states currently have the testing equipment, lab infrastructure, skills, and practical knowledge base to set up and run localized COVID-19 testing using the GeneXpert platform as they currently run similar tests on the same platform for other diseases, such as tuberculosis.
PIHOA is working with regional and local health authorities to assess needs and will conduct a regional bulk procurement of newly developed COVID-19 testing kits and a back-up GeneXpert machine for the island areas.
AMATA WELCOMES THE GRANT
Congresswoman Aumua Amata welcomes notice of an Office of Insular Affairs grant for COVID-19 testing equipment, and said the $2 trillion CARES Act contains expanded national funding for testing to make it widely available and speed up the distribution as part of $1.5 billion to CDC.
“This is welcome news from Interior and OIA,” said Aumua Amata. “Our islands need testing just as soon as possible, and our medical professionals are up to the task. Thank you to Secretary David Bernhardt and
Assistant Secretary Doug Domenech and congratulations to Governor Lolo.
Congress is making testing a major priority in this week’s CARES Act, and also funded testing in earlier coronavirus response legislation this month.”