The CDC has launched a pilot programme at SFO to enable near-real-time detection of new COVID-19 variants among travellers entering the United States.
Through a collaboration with XpresCheck COVID-19 testing company and biotech firm Ginkgo Bioworks, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) pilot programme set up an enhanced voluntary COVID surveillance among international travellers arriving at SFO (San Francisco International Airport). The CDC is launching similar programmes at JFK and Newark airports.
This pilot project, which is unrelated to existing testing orders or travel restrictions, will invite passengers to volunteer for two types of tests. The first is a “pooled” PCR test, meaning several passengers’ samples are combined and tested as a group and sequenced if positive. The second type of test involves providing passengers with an at-home specimen collection kit that passengers submit for an individual PCR test three to five days after arrival into the US. This time frame is in line with CDC’s current recommendation that all travellers get tested three to five days after international travel. Positive results will also be sequenced. CDC will use the results for surveillance purposes. Travelers will be notified of their positive PCR results; those whose specimens were tested as a pool will be notified that someone in the pool tested positive and recommended to retest.
“We are proud to be chosen for this pilot programme with the Centers for Disease Control,” said SFO airport director Ivar C Satero. “Throughout the pandemic, SFO has been a leader in enhanced screening, onsite testing, and vaccination programmes. This latest initiative represents another step forward in the effort to identify, track, and ultimately mitigate potential new variants of COVID.”