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McEnerny-Ogle, Herrera Beutler push for rapid screening of construction workers

Two local politicians are pushing to implement a pilot project that would provide construction workers with rapid saliva testing to screen for COVID-19, potentially reopening that sector of the economy.

In a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday, Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, proposed a demonstration project that would provide coronavirus testing for residential construction workers through a process developed at Molecular Testing Lab in Vancouver.

According to the letter, the lab already has the capacity to run nasal and oral tests for COVID-19. They’re awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

“Test samples can be collected by patients with minimal contact from health care professionals. The process is much simpler and requires far less use of personal protection equipment than current test methods, and results can be obtained in 24-48 hours,” McEnerny-Ogle and Herrera Beutler wrote.

The two stressed that, if successful, the project could provide a blueprint for reopening other industries left in the lurch during the viral outbreak. They asked Inslee for approval to move forward with the project, pending the FDA’s approval of the tests.

“The residential construction industry appears to be a good candidate for this sort of approach. Assuming this project is successful, it could be quickly rolled out to other segments of the economy,” Herrera Beutler and McEnerny-Ogle wrote.

According to public health officials, scarcity of testing is one of the biggest barriers to reopening the economy — the community can’t safely relax social distancing measures without first understanding the full scope of the viral outbreak.

Inslee repeated his call for a robust national testing system on Tuesday in correspondence with Vice President Mike Pence, who’s managing the national response to the coronavirus.

“Scientists are indicating that testing levels must significantly grow over the coming weeks — reaching volumes not possible with current resources — before we can responsibly modify interventions that remain our best defense against the virus,” Inslee wrote.

Molecular Testing Labs, at 14401 S.E. First St., is a commercial lab that has provided toxicology, genetic and infectious disease testing for the last decade.

The lab made headlines last month, after an announcement that they had developed a take-home testing kit for the coronavirus. At the time, a spokesperson for the company said the COVID-19 testing kits were about two weeks out from validation.

A company spokesperson did not respond to The Columbian’s request for comment Tuesday afternoon.


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