A partnership between Honolulu and the University of Hawaii is estimated to provide nearly 100,000 COVID-19 tests to people on Oahu, Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced on Tuesday.

The JABSOM Tropical Medicine Clinic Laboratory will provide “surge capacity” for traditional diagnostic tests that use cotton swabs, establish a new antibody testing program and develop new methods to test for the coronavirus, the city said in a press release.

The program will enable expanded, long-term testing access for underserved, uninsured, and frontline workers who may require multiple tests for safety at their workplaces, according to the city.

It will also build capacity to identify, monitor and diagnose COVID-19 variations and other infectious diseases, “positioning Hawaii to be on the leading edge of pandemic preparedness,” the city said. 

With the help of $3.9 million in CARES Act funds from the city, the effort is being “fast-tracked” by the university’s John A. Burns School of Medicine to be operational in about six weeks.

“We can’t truly find this virus and work to contain it if we aren’t looking for it,” Caldwell said in a statement. “We believe much more testing needs to be done as we continue to get more of Oahu safely back to work.”

The partnership will provide 50,000 diagnostic tests to Oahu residents through the end of the year, administered via community health centers around the island. Another 49,000 antibody tests will be made available “as part of a broader population study to identify patterns and levels of COVID-19 exposure locally,” the city said.

The lab has already obtained a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment certificate of compliance from the State Department of Health and CLIA registration and will start securing equipment immediately, according to the city.

The Rockefeller Foundation is also providing support. The organization has a national testing plan that calls for the United States’ testing capacity to increase from the current 1 million tests a week, to 3 million this summer, to 30 million by the fall so that the country can safely keep the economy open, the city said.

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