IN THE NEWS | The call for rapid, point-of-need testing gets louder
In an opinion piece for the Civil Beat Ideas Section, State Representatives, Bob McDermott (House District 4: Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry and Iroquois Point) and Gene Ward (Hawaii House Minority Leader) called for CARES Act funds to be applied to help build and develop manufacturing capabilities for the ASSURE-19 test kits, right here in Hawaii. With just over 100 days left to allocate almost half a billion dollars in funds, more leaders in local government are calling for efforts that can both aid in combating the global pandemic and in diversifying Hawaii’s economy for the long-term.
Also in Civil Beat, reporter Stewart Yerton explored how the calls for fast, frequent and cheap Covid-19 tests are growing stronger by the day. Experts agree that rapid tests can be the critical piece of the puzzle to solve the spread of Covid-19. By detecting infectiousness rather than just presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we can effectively quarantine those who would readily spread the disease – regardless of if that person exhibits or experiences symptoms or not. Yerton writes about the concept of ASSURE-19: “use a lot of rapid-results, cheap and easy-to-use tests as an initial screening in settings where people congregate, like a school, workplace or care home. The tests are cheap enough that they can be taken frequently.”
Another area that Oceanit has already identified is tourism and flights arriving to Hawaii. KHON2 produced a segment with ASSURE-19 partners at the Queen’s Medical Center, interviewing Dr. Erlaine Bello about the risks associated with flights and tourists beginning to ramp up once more. While the state has plans to require pre-flight tests, the Aloha Protocol would call for testing upon arrival and for five days subsequently for arriving tourists. This would ensure that if a person was exposed after their pre-flight test results, that ASSURE-19 could flag the virus as it reached infectious levels in that person. Infectiousness hits peak levels around 4-6 days after exposure, so a single test pre-flight may be too early in the exposure phase to catch the presences of SARS-CoV-2.
The Star Advertiser also followed up with their coverage of ASSURE-19 this week, announcing Oceanit’s naming to the semi-finalist list for the XPRIZE Rapid Covid Testing competition. In the semifinal phase, Oceanit will perform blind proficiency testing on up to 200 inactive virus samples sent by the XPRIZE Foundation, the results of which will determine whether it will be among the 20 teams to reach the final round. The XPRIZE Foundation is an international nonprofit formed in 1994 that has funded innovative competitions in the domain areas of space, oceans, learning, health, energy, environment, transportation, safety and robotics, including a $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight.