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Niagara Falls takes action to address lack of COVID-19 test kits

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Posted at 5:42 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 18:27:42-04

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — The City of Niagara Falls find itself in a situation no city wants to be in right now; it has essentially run out of COVID-19 testing kits.

It's a result of a transfer of supplies to other parts of the country.

"Not shortage but basically diversion of these essential kits and reagents to the states [that] are hotspots in south, southwest, west," said Dr. Rajinder Bajwa, and Infectious Disease Specialist at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

"Recognizing of course that we're all in this together, but also realizing that here in the City of Niagara Falls, we struggled mightily to make sure that we had sufficient testing sites, that we had sufficient testing supplies," said Mayor Robert Restaino.

City leaders proposed Thursday to allocate some Community Development Block Grant funds to emergency COVID-19 testing, allowing Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to conduct community testing.

Mayor Restaino said the proposal will not stall or cancel any community projects or programs under the CDBG funds.

If authorized, the proposal would provide an initial grant of $50,000. But Western New York is in a global competition to secure these test kits.

Joseph Ruffolo, CEO of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, said their lab partner Kaleida was able to secure an out-of-state lab.

"They were able to identify an outside commercial lab out of state that could supply tests, but the testing kits would be almost twice the cost of what were previously paying for reagents to do community testing," he said.

The Niagara Falls Memorial Medical center is a COVID-19 testing center. City leaders said the proposal would meet the needs for COVID-19 test kit results with a significantly reduced turnaround time.

The test would be a saliva test, and has a turnaround time of four days, compared to 10 to 14 days.

"So they have a very good accuracy and it's going to be a game changer, and patients would have a better compliance because it's not any kind of invasive testing," said Dr. Bajwa.

The City Council will hold a special meeting to authorize the proposal.