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Increased Testing to Promote Safety and Boost Economic Activity

In the months since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City has made significant strides to control the transmission of the virus through an extensive testing and contact tracing program. Since establishing the New York City Test and Trace Corps in June, the City has hired and trained over 4,500 contact tracers to track and contain COVID-19. At the same time, the City has steadily expanded the availability of molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and reduced testing turnaround times—most recently, the City announced the opening of the Pandemic Response Lab (PRL), a COVID-19 test processing facility in Manhattan that will be able to process 20,000 tests a day.

The dual success of the City’s expanded testing and contact tracing have facilitated a safe and steady economic reopening over the last several months in which the City has seen more than 10,000 restaurants participate in outdoor dining, museums welcome back visitors, and public schools begin in-class instruction.

Despite these successes, New York City will need to dramatically increase the availability, usability, and speed of testing to further reopen the economy in the period before a vaccine becomes widely available.

Rapid Testing Innovation Competition

The Need for Testing Innovation

Most of the City’s gains in testing have been in molecular or PCR testing, which requires processing samples at a separate, high-complexity lab facility. In order to significantly increase safety and economic activity, the City will need access to point-of-care and at-home COVID-19 tests that can deliver results in minutes rather than hours, and be self-administered (“rapid tests”). There are only a handful of point-of-care tests that have FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and are not required to be performed in a moderate- or high-complexity laboratory setting. All these tests are currently in extremely high demand (and are expected to be for some time) by the federal government and other states and cities.

Wide distribution of rapid tests will support many of the cornerstone industries of New York’s economy and culture—live events, restaurants, tourism—that have remained shuttered or greatly diminished due to COVID-19.

The Launch of the Rapid Testing Innovation Competition

To accelerate the development and deployment of rapid tests and ensure their stable supply, the City will hold a competition to identify and potentially purchase these innovative tests. Wide distribution of rapid tests will support many of the cornerstone industries of New York’s economy and culture—live events, restaurants, tourism—that have remained shuttered or greatly diminished due to COVID-19.

While the existing rapid tests on the market offer relatively quick turnaround times (TATs) of less than an hour, their reliance on a dedicated instrument puts a limit on how many such tests can be processed in a given time period. While the competition would accept submissions for such tests to serve certain populations, the ideal outcome would be all-in-one solutions that are not dependent on instrumentation and administration by healthcare personnel.

Participants will be evaluated based upon their performance and how well they meet these criteria:

  • Easily usable by individuals - aiming to be approved for use either at-home with the general public or at point-of-care; versatility with sample types and simple collection methods.
  • Deliver quick, accurate results - goal for TAT of less than 15 minutes though maximum of 45 minutes is acceptable; assay performance; ability to meet all required regulatory requirements.
  • Inexpensive and scalable – eventually able to administer millions/day; priced less than $10 per test (ideally less than $5 per test); disposable or reusable consumables with focus on broad distribution and high throughput.
  • Communicate results to patient and health agencies – simple visualization of test results (such as pictograms) and within a HIPAA-compliant app or website; data integration with health agencies.

Competition information is available at, and the submission deadline for proposals is rolling, in two-week cycles.

What's Next

Depending on the quality and readiness of responses, the City hopes to have rapid tests identified via the competition deployed to New Yorkers in the next several months.

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