Out of 23 organizations, 11 will be awarded portions of Kansas’ $52 million set aside for a unified testing strategy, the governor’s office announced Thursday.
The unified testing strategy, once fully implemented, would test asymptomatic people in high-risk areas, with the end goal of surveillance testing. Currently, one needs to have symptoms of the coronavirus to get a test.
"Kansas is at a critical point with COVID-19," Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement. "Our communities are continuing to experience a significant amount of cases. Until a vaccine is widely available, one of the most important strategies to protect Kansans and ensure a promising economy is to increase testing."
The strategy is being funded by federal coronavirus relief money, or CARES Act money, that was given to the state.
Two of the groups include Lenexa-based lab MAWD and Wichita State University, both whom state lawmakers had spoken of as critical to the strategy, well before the testing money’s bidding process.
MAWD would focus on testing in areas of private businesses in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment focusing on the public health side of things, such as K-12 education. Wichita State, meanwhile, would try to rapidly increase testing capacity in Wichita, the state’s largest city.
The other organizations selected will now also play one or multiple roles in the strategy, and that could include providing testing supplies, collecting and reporting samples, ensuring people testing positive are able to isolate or transporting tests to labs.
The other winners of the money are 4M, Clinical Reference Lab, Freestate Logistics, Medevac, NicUSA, Quest, Sinochips, the University of Kansas Health System and WellHealth.
All those who applied were evaluated on three criteria: the role one could play in the testing strategy, how the group would handle testing for high-risk populations and what one could provide in terms of outside-the-box ideas to support a unified testing strategy.
Each of the awardees will be responsible for testing in specific populations and counties, beginning next week, the governor’s office said.
This timeline, however, will face some pressure, as all CARES Act money has to be spent by the end of the year.
Some state lawmakers had expressed their feelings with how slow the process has been to get the testing strategy up and running.
"I am just very frustrated and very disappointed that we have not at least let (Wichita State) and the lab start in our two most urban areas. And they know what they’re doing. And they’re signing the documents that say ‘we do it wrong, we’ll pay it back,’ " Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, had previously said. "We have to keep our businesses open now."
The state had defended its timeline, saying logistics have to be sorted out and carefully reviewed to ensure a correct and smooth process.