U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced that the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has been awarded $1,481,992 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand COVID-19 genomic sequencing.
The funding, which was included in the American Rescue Plan, will allow RIDOH to expand and improve activities to sequence genomes and identify mutations in SARS-CoV-2. Sequencing efforts in Rhode Island are coordinated by RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories.
“This federal grant will enable local researchers to conduct genomic sequencing and better identify emerging forms of the virus. The more reliable scientific data we have the better we can understand, track, and stop the spread of variants of concern,” said Senator Reed in a statement included in a press release.
“While existing vaccines have proven largely effective against mutations so far, the potential emergence of new variants remains a big question mark hanging over the long-term recovery from the pandemic,” said Senator Whitehouse in a statement. “Democrats pushed for this funding in the American Rescue Plan to give the CDC and states like Rhode Island the ability to adapt the public health response accordingly as the virus continues to change.”
“Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, the American Rescue Plan is already delivering sorely needed relief directly to Rhode Islanders,” said Congressman Langevin in a statement. “This latest funding will arm our public health experts with the necessary resources to keep tabs on the latest variants, so Rhode Island’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues moving in the right direction.”
“This new funding will make it possible for states like Rhode Island to understand and plan for what coronavirus variant is most prevalent,” Congressman Cicilline said in a statement. “Helping our public health agencies to know what’s coming and prepare and adapt for it, as well as share data with our neighbors to the north and west of us will help us finally round the bend and put the pandemic behind us. I thank President Biden for making this funding available.”
Specifically, the funding will support collection of COVID specimens, sequencing of COVID viruses, and data sharing. This initial tranche of funding will be distributed in early May. Additional funding for genomic sequencing will be invested over the next several years.
“Rhode Island is in a race against time with vaccines and variants. As we continue to get shots in arms, investing in data collection is an asset that will help protect Rhode Islanders and our neighbors across the country,” said Governor Dan McKee in a statement. “I thank our Congressional delegation for all their efforts to secure crucial federal funding to support Rhode Island’s COVID-19 response.”
The Rhode Island Department of Health projects that more than 50 percent of new cases are caused by variants of concern.