XpresSpa Group, Inc. has announced the extension of their initial $2 million airport-based biosurveillance program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through its subsidiary XpresCheck®, bringing the total contract to $5.6 million.
First launched in September 2021, the COVID-19 biosurveillance program consisted of an 8-week pilot that focuses on the importation of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants in the United States on flights originating from India.
“During the Thanksgiving holiday, we worked closely with the CDC to pivot and expand our surveillance program to screen for the new, highly contagious Omicron variant that was identified just days earlier in Africa,” said Ezra Ernst, XpresCheck’s recently appointed chief executive officer. “Together, with our testing partner, Concentric by Ginkgo, we successfully expanded the program to monitor additional flights from around the globe.”
With the recent expansion, the program now tests passengers entering the United States from seven African countries, including passengers making connections through the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Brazil – countries that have been identified as Level 4 Risk Assessment for COVID-19. Initially, the biosurveillance program provided testing for travelers arriving from India at three key United States airports including John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark-Liberty International Airport and San Francisco International Airport. The expansion also included the addition of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, bringing the number of testing sites to four.
“For the past 3 months, XpresCheck and their testing partner, Concentric by Gingko, demonstrated that a traveler-based SARS-CoV-2 viral genomic surveillance program can help detect emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants in the United States,” said Dr. Cindy R. Friedman, chief of CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch. “In fact, following the rapid expansion over the Thanksgiving break, the program detected the first documented U.S. cases of Omicron sub-lineage BA.2 and BA.3,” added Friedman.
Operationally, the current expansion utilizes the same tests and processes as the pilot program. Passengers take a PCR test, which is combined with 5-10 other samples and sent to the lab to determine the presence of COVID-19. If the presence of COVID-19 is detected in the pooled sample, the viral samples will undergo genomic sequencing to identify the presence of any variants, such as the Omicron variant. In addition to the pooled tests, participating travelers are provided a free take-home PCR test which they are recommended to take within 3-5 days after their arrival. Both tests help the CDC understand which variants are making their way to the U.S.