Hi friends: another busy week as GWP’s continues to use its convening power and voice to catalyze solutions to scale that can help the Region re-open more quickly and safely, and accelerate back toward inclusive growth.
A number of GWP’s peer regional business organizations have been working in parallel on reopening and in particular on testing for their regions, in the absence of Federal leadership. Read about that work in this article published on Thanksgiving that also alludes to our behind-the-scenes efforts with the outgoing and incoming Federal Administrations. On Tuesday, we convened public and independent K-12 school leaders, major local and national philanthropies, regional college organizations, and governmental authorities as all converge toward #FFAST (fast, frequent, asymptomatic testing). We were pleased to see Mayor Bowser announce shortly after a #FFAST pilot program for K-12 public schools in DC.GWP’s unique convening capability is catalyzing groups toward consensus, and to share best practices and coordinate on critical reopening tactics like #FFAST testing. As vaccines become available, the Partners will have a key role promoting their use. Please do respond to our Capital COVID Survey as we continue to track business reopening plans throughout the region.
Reopening from schools to businesses is the path to inclusive recovery and then inclusive growth for the Region and across the country, and will continue to put our weight as needed behind these critical efforts.
We coordinated business groups from around the region in an outreach effort to our Federal delegations in support of an immediate recovery bill. Our CoLAB initiative announced its 2025 vision to engage 45,000 people in digital tech pathways by 2025, and committed that half of them will be from historically underrepresented populations. Our mobility initiative weighed in on potential transit cutbacks, and plans to release the Capital Region Rail Vision report next week.
Two new studies out this week that buttress the emerged consensus view on critical steps to reopening as the pandemic rages:
- Masks work: Germany: “We conclude that 20 days after becoming mandatory face masks have reduced the number of new infections by around 45%.”
- Fast, frequent asymptomatic testing (#FFAST) works: “Slovakia reduced their #COVID-19 infection prevalence by 61% (50-70) within one week through mass testing… After two weeks and two rounds, … the reduction was 82%.”
There’s light ahead – be safe, and in the meantime, find your place in the vaccine line in this cool NYT interactive.)
(Operation #FFAST. Now. was originally published in LinkedIn on Nov 26, 2020)
In a series of convenings over the last ten days, business groups from around the country have made a collective call for a national COVID-19 testing action plan. “Operation #FFAST’, like Operation Warp Speed’s success in coordinating vaccine development, would focus on scaling fast, frequent, asymptomatic testing capability as a national priority. The outgoing and incoming federal Administrations should quickly stand-up a joint ##FFAST Task Force.
The Massachusetts High Tech Council has been making this call since March. The Broad Institute and Project Beacon have stepped up to the challenge in that region, with the Broad helping more than 100 northeastern universities manage reopening more safely. As the White House Dr. Birx pointed out this week, those universities that ran FFAST programs had 1/10th the case numbers of those that did not.
At this week’s convening, the High Tech Council , citing these and programs in Singapore and China, made this call to action:
The Greater Washington Partnership has been working on this question for the Capital region since the summer. In September, we specified the need for 8x the volume of testing in the region to support reopening. Dr. Birx’ work this week cited a national need for 10x the volume of tests.
At this week’s convening, national experts made the collective call for #FFAST, with a first focus (by January, 2021) on teachers and staff in public K-12 schools.
Texas 2036 principles have worked closely with Dallas and business leaders in San Antonio to step up coordinated efforts to expand test supply as well.
The Partnership for New York City has joined in on the call as well.
Philanthropies like the Rockefeller Foundation are working extremely hard on testing programs for schools across America. The Gary family philanthropies and others in Colorado have set up CovidCHECK Colorado and tested 10s of 1000s of K-12 folks since September.
This Administration and the incoming Administration should join forces to accelerate Operation #FFAST. We cannot wait, and consensus across business, philanthropy, public health leaders, and both Administrations exists. I propose Drs. Fauci and Birx, and Rockefeller’s Dr. Raj Shah (former US AID Administrator) and American University President Sylvia Burwell (formerly head of HHS and OMB) as joint Chairs.
Why do we still need Federal leadership?
The CEO of one of the major test manufacturing companies argues that the U.S. has 5 x the test capacity it’s currently using. The problem isn’t just about supply.
We need a national Operation #FFAST in order to:
1. Help support CDC and other officials to back asymptomatic testing. The CDC last week published findings that > 50% of all cases are asymptomatic so we expect they will move to advise asymptomatic testing ASAP
2. Work through national supply/demand constraints.
- Assess national supply
- Remove price/reimbursement obstacles inhibiting demand
- Develop production and distribution strategies to insure equitable access to testing everywhere
- Develop strategies and priority test targets.
- All public K-12 schools should have FFAST programs in place, paid and fully supported by appropriate public health guidance, by January, 2021
- Focus on PCR capacity but also accelerate FDA work on inexpensive, high quality, large scale point of care, self-administered test solutions
Operation Warp Speed created the possibility we’ll have much of America immunized twelve months from now. Until then we need to ramp up testing and use it as a tool to find and address outbreaks. Slovakia tested its entire country in one weekend, and had striking success knocking back their outbreak. Colleges, Universities, and the NBA have proven this works here. There will be another coronavirus.
The tools, capital, consensus and knowledge exist. Let’s go #FFAST now.