COVID-19 News

DoD, HHS deploy air bridge to bring swab test kits to US

The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have partnered with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to deploy an international "air bridge" to safely and securely transport COVID-19 diagnostic swab kits from Italy to the US.

These swab kits are a critical component of an expanded U.S. pandemic response and “drive-through” testing capabilities recently announced by the president of the United States.

Efforts to coordinate the shipment began on 14 March, when the DOD HHS cooperatively pursued a military airlift mission to immediately transport a bulk shipment of COVID-19 diagnostic kits from Copan Diagnostics, a primary supplier for diagnostic swab kits, located in Brescia, Italy, to the United States. The first air bridge shipment of diagnostic materials consisted of half-a-million swabs and arrived 17 March, at Memphis International Airport. The shipment into Memphis, a commercial cargo hub for FEDEX, allowed the kits to be rapidly distributed nearly the same day around the country thanks to a rapidly developed public-private partnership fostered by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

DTRA, which had prior experience coordinating a 2019 shipment of Ebola vaccines from Germany to the US during outbreak operations in the Congo, helped to facilitate the COVID-19 effort.

“DTRA’s collaborations both inside the U.S. government and abroad allowed us to break traditional barriers in bureaucracy and promptly accomplish this mission on behalf of DHHS,” said Army Major Jeffrey Froude, mission integrator for the airlift. “Our team was able to move vital medical supplies from Italy to America in just 55 hours.”

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