March 20, 2020
HHS, DOD coordinate international airlift of COVID-19 supplies
On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD) coordinated an emergency international airlift of 500,000 swabs and sample kits used in the COVID-19 testing process in an effort to increase diagnostic testing for Americans.
Copan Diagnostics, Inc., located in Italy, recently informed U.S. government officials they were unable to ship their swabs and sample kits to distributors in the United States due to border closures and flight cancellations in Europe. Recognizing that the company is one of the major suppliers for the U.S. market for sample kits, and the risk this posed to creating a shortage of these critical supplies, the U.S. government took swift action.
Several agencies within the HHS, including the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), immediately worked in collaboration with the Department of Defense, including its Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), to airlift the products from Italy to Memphis, Tennessee, a major hub for FedEx. FedEx then shipped the products to multiple diagnostic companies, nationwide to support private sector COVID-19 testing. Copan Diagnostics, Inc. continues to produce COVID-19 testing swabs in sufficient quantity to satisfy Italian need and sell abroad.
“An emergency military delivery of 500,000 collection kits from a manufacturer in Italy who has enough supplies to sell outside Europe is exactly the kind of public-private cooperation and whole-of-government approach that has characterized the Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Thanks to this quick coordination among agencies and the private sector, private diagnostic companies will have the ability to provide rapid tests for hundreds of thousands of more Americans.”
This kind of successful interagency cooperation is an example of how the Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19 will proceed going forward. Airlifts have now been established to bring swabs and collection kits for COVID-19 to the United States, allowing distribution without interruption.