A Novel Effort for a Novel Virus

PITTSBURGH (May 15, 2020) – Safely jump-starting the economy in the wake of COVID-19 will require significantly enhanced testing capacity for the virus. But there are not yet enough tests available – particularly in the underserved communities that need them most. 

An unlikely alliance is coming together to start solving that quandary. The Allegheny County Health Department, California-based Curative Inc., Pittsburgh-based Argo AI and the Richard King Mellon Foundation will partner to supply 5,000 high-quality tests to Allegheny County’s seven low-income health centers, known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). 

As a result, thousands of tests will start arriving at the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) for distribution to the FQHCs, starting today. 

“Federally Qualified Health Centers exist to provide healthcare and services to the vulnerable and those most in need in our communities without regard for their ability to pay and currently, we realize that these individuals are most at risk,” said Dr. Jerome Gloster, Chief Executive Officer of Primary Care Health Services Inc. “Therefore, we are so thankful to the Richard King Mellon Foundation and ACHD Director Dr. Debra Bogen, as well as Curative and Argo AI, for putting into action this plan to change that narrative. This incredible partnership means that our families can now have increased access to testing within their own communities with a trusted healthcare provider. This effort will work to reverse the trend of poor outcomes and save lives.”

The Richard King Mellon Foundation is awarding the Allegheny County Health Department a $350,000 grant to purchase the initial 2,000 saliva testing kits from Curative. The county is purchasing 3,000 more tests from Curative. And Argo AI is contributing its expertise in route planning and fleet operations to manage pickup and delivery of the test kits, ensuring timely collection and distribution.

“This is a wonderful example of how the Foundation’s network is as important as its capital. This project has brought together leaders from across the country to make this COVID-19 testing possible, and all to the benefit of our neighbors who need it most,” said Sam Reiman, Director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

“One of the things that we do best in this region is work together, particularly when faced with challenges in our community,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Thanks to the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Curative, Argo AI, the team at the Health Department and the many FQHCs that call Allegheny County home, we are meeting the need to provide more testing in underserved communities. It is only through such cooperative efforts that we will continue to make strides against this virus.”

“Expanded testing is critical to controlling the spread of COVID-19, and that means anyone who needs a test must be able to get one. This partnership will bring testing into new communities in our region and to some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Dr. Debra L. Bogen, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department. “Our Federally Qualified Health Centers serve a vital role in many communities and I’m grateful we came together to give them the tools they need to confront COVID-19.”

“We’re proud to join this extraordinary alliance, and to deliver Curative’s accurate, easy-to-use oral fluid tests to some of the communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19,” said Fred Turner, CEO and Founder of Curative. “Curative has been able to manufacture over a million tests to date, and currently processes 10,000-15,000 tests per day, and it is the support of our partners like Richard King Mellon Foundation that has enabled us to scale this quickly. Our work with organizations like the U.S. Air Force, the City of Los Angeles, and now Allegheny County helps ensure testing resources go where they can make the greatest impact.”

“Helping out our community is essential,” said Argo AI CEO and co-founder Bryan Salesky. “The Argo AI team immediately jumped at the opportunity to make an impact. We appreciate the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Allegheny County and Curative for taking big, bold steps and swift action to help combat COVID-19, and we’re pleased to be part of it.”

The $350,000 grant from Richard King Mellon Foundation is part of its $15 million COVID-19 response package, awarded under its Healthcare Innovation and Technology initiative. More grants under that initiative will be following soon. The other two categories of assistance are Economic Impact and Recovery funding, and Emergency Operating Support grants for the Foundation’s nonprofit partners.

Allegheny County’s seven FQHCs are: Primary Care Health Services (nine sites); Squirrel Hill Health Center; North Side Christian Health Center; Pittsburgh Mercy; East Liberty Family Health Center; Sto-Rox Family Health Center; and Metro Community Health Center.

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Founded in 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation is the largest foundation in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Foundation’s 2019 endowment was $2.7 billion and its Trustees in 2019 awarded 172 grants totaling $129 million, focused on the Foundation’s strategic priorities: Education, human services, economic development, and environmental conservation.