Written by Brieanne Lyda-McDonald
The Pandemic Response Act (House Bill 1043) and the COVID-19 Recovery Act (Senate Bill 704) signed by Governor Roy Cooper on May 4 contain a multitude of allocations to support public health, health care, education, and many other pandemic-related needs. The allocations included $85 million to support COVID-19 research that will be distributed to several universities in the state:
The North Carolina Policy Collaboratory, established by the General Assembly in 2016, supports research related to environmental and natural resource management in the state and then helps to disseminate findings. With the aim of ensuring that “data-driven research is the basis for state legislation during the pandemic,” the Collaboratory will form an advisory group of administrators from UNC-Chapel Hill’s public health, medical, and business departments to identify opportunities to fund coronavirus research. A report on progress and use of funds is due to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services by no later than September 1, 2020.
Wake Forest University Health Services
Wake Forest University Health Services has been working to track COVID-19 symptoms and test for the presence of antibodies across the population in real time. The funds allocated by the General Assembly will help them test 10,000 people across the 20-county service area for Wake Forest Baptist, 15,000 in 20 counties served by Atrium Health, and thousands more across the state using an at-home antibody test six times over the next year.
Duke University Human Vaccine Institute
The Duke University Human Vaccine Institute will use allocated funds to test the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and have an ongoing animal trial. Researchers at the Immunology Virology Quality Assessment Center at the Institute have also been playing a role in testing samples from Duke University Hospital and developing SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) assays for studies at Duke.
East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine
The ECU Brody School of Medicine funding allocations will allow for a variety of research efforts around COVID-19. A report on the progress of research activities conducted with the General Assembly funding allocations is due to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services by September.
In April, Governor Cooper announced a partnership between ECU Brody School of Medicine, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and the North Carolina Division of Public Health to complete an in-depth study of the number of people infected with COVID-19, how many are asymptomatic, how many have recovered, and the impacts of the pandemic on physical and mental health, families, and the economy. ECU will focus on Cabarrus, Chatham, and Pitt counties. The study will last at least six months and will include monthly blood samples collected at health departments, nasal swabs collected at home, and an online survey twice per month.
Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine
The General Assembly allocated these funds for the purpose of creating a testing and treatment initiative focused specifically on rural populations in North Carolina. As with the UNC Collaboratory and ECU funds, a report on progress and use of funds is due to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services by September.
Oversight of Funding Allocations
Independent of the research funding, the General Assembly’s COVID-19 legislation allocated $2 million for the creation of a temporary Pandemic Recovery Office as part of the Office of State Budget and Management. The intent of the office is to “oversee and coordinate funds made available under COVID-19 Recovery Legislation. This Office shall also provide technical assistance and ensure coordination of federal funds received by State agencies and local governments and ensure proper reporting and accounting of all funds.” The office is meant to expire in one year.