$67 million federal laboratory grant aims to improve Delaware’s coronavirus response

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The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) was awarded a $67 million Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The funds will expand testing capacity for COVID-19, and support the establishment of a modernized public health epidemiologic surveillance system.

DPH typically receives $1.5 million in ELC grant funds annually but due to the need to support COVID-19 activities, all states received added funding and a timeframe of 30 months to use the money.

“The enhanced funding from the CDC will allow us to expand community testing in Delaware and to rapidly build our contact tracing program, especially among vulnerable populations,” said Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker. “As we test more widely, we will find more positive cases in our state and those individuals will need to be isolated. To slow the transmission of this highly contagious disease – one person infected with the virus can infect two to three more people – we need to move quickly to alert people who may have been exposed to someone who tested positive, and to advise them of their need to self-quarantine.”

“We are so grateful for the support from CDC and excited about how this funding will expand and support in particular, enhancing our data and surveillance systems,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health. “We had begun working to enhance our platforms that support our data and surveillance systems when COVID-19 hit, and as we have navigated this event, we were building systems on the fly. This will greatly accelerate our efforts to be where we want to be in our data analysis and use.”

In addition to supporting expanded statewide testing and analysis, the grant will assist Delaware in creating a COVID-19 surveillance network to test symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, with additional testing for vulnerable populations.

DPH plans to use the funding to:

  • Hire staff for enhanced laboratory, surveillance, informatics, and another workforce capacity​.
  • Purchase testing and laboratory supplies such as specimen collection kits, lab reagents, and test kits for molecular and serology testing.
  • Implement new and advanced technologies for robust implementation of electronic laboratory and surveillance data exchange to and fromthe public health lab. This includes the purchase of hardware, software and systems like GIS mapping tools.
  • Implement new and advanced technologies to improve our surveillance and reporting of electronic health data.
  • Use laboratory data to enhance investigation, response, and prevention through contact tracing, surveillance/mapping, outbreak response, community testing events, and public dissemination of data. DPH and other states who have received this funding must accelerate efforts to conduct robust contact tracing and then identify and isolate new cases of COVID-19.
  • Coordinate and engage with partners through training, outreach, workshops, communication technologies, and community testing events​.
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