San Francisco International airport will be the location for a new program attempting to catch and identify any new COVID variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the launch of the pilot testing program Monday.
“For now, the program is limited to passengers on certain international flights coming into San Francisco, as well as JFK and Newark International” reports San Francisco’s local CBS station KPIX.
The program intends to get a head start on any potential new variants that could be entering the U.S. To begin, the program is limited to certain international flights coming into San Francisco, JFK in New York and Newark International in New Jersey.
The hope is that “early detection will allow medical researchers to quickly begin testing how the new strains spread and react to the vaccines currently in use.” San Francisco Airport Director Ivar C. Satero said “we are proud to be chosen for this pilot program with the Center for Disease Control.”
“Throughout the pandemic, SFO has been a leader in enhanced screening, onsite testing, and vaccination programs. This latest initiative represents another step forward in the effort to identify, track, and ultimately mitigate potential new variants of COVID” added Satero.
Dr. Cindy Friedman, Chief of the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch said “the program will enable near-real-time detection of novel COVID-19 variant strains.” The program works by allowing the travelers the option to get tested as soon as they land at SFO.
The first test administered is a “pooled” PCR test, where several samples are combined and tested. A second test will be given to passengers to give themselves 3-to-5 days after their arrival.
The testing program is voluntary and a way for the CDC to collect as much data as possible “for surveillance purposes, ultimately helping to mitigate the spread of new variants” reports KPIX. If variants are detected, the CDC will be notified so they can do a more detailed analysis.