OraSure receives funding to further COVID-19 test clearance

Just days after announcing that it had received a $205 million federal contract to provide COVID-19 InteliSwab tests, Bethlehem’s OraSure said the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA) will provide up to $13.6 million in funding for the Company to obtain 510(k) clearance and CLIA waiver for their COVID-19 rapid test, InteliSwab, from the Food & Drug Administration. 

The test is currently being manufactured and distributed under Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. 

“Rapid COVID-19 antigen tests can help to facilitate containment and minimize outbreaks by detecting those individuals infected with COVID-19. Testing with InteliSwab is expected to be an important component of governments’, private industries’ and communities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with vaccination and protection,” said OraSure President and CEO, Stephen Tang, Ph.D. “Once received, this full regulatory clearance will help ensure continued availability of the InteliSwab COVID-19 Rapid Test long-term.” 

The advantage of the InteliSwab test is that it can be performed by a non-professional outside of a medical setting. A user swipes the lower nostril with the test swab and receives results in about 30 minutes, providing a quick answer as to whether or not someone is infected. 

Following 510(k) clearance, Tang said the company will pursue Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) waiver for InteliSwab, to ensure that the test can continue to be performed by an untrained user outside of the laboratory setting. 

OraSure lands $205M federal contract for rapid COVID-19 test

OraSure Technologies in Bethlehem has secured a $205 million contract from the Defense Logistics Agency to supply its InteliSwab over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits as part of the national pandemic response. 

Under the terms of the contract, OraSure will provide the test to up to 25,000 sites throughout the United States and the tests will be funded by the U.S. federal government. The contract will run from October 2021 through September 2022. 

“We are exceptionally proud to work with the Defense Logistics Agency and the U.S. federal government to be part of the nation’s pandemic response. We strongly believe testing will play a critical role in controlling the recent outbreak of the Delta variant and help to prevent future outbreaks.  We believe widespread testing will allow Americans to return to work and school safely, as well as save lives and livelihoods,” said OraSure President and CEO Stephen Tang. “InteliSwab is uniquely suited to fulfill this mission as it was designed to be one of the simplest rapid antigen tests. Its intuitive nature makes it ideal for use in underserved communities and consumer testing settings throughout the U.S.” 

The company expects to ramp up production during the remainder of 2021 to meet the contract, and so it expects most of the revenue from the contract to be coming in during 2022. 

The InteliSwab which received Emergency Use Authorization from the Food & Drug Administration is used by swiping the lower nostril and gives rapid test results. The test does not need to be administered by a professional making it more convenient in non-medical settings. 



Millersville and NCC among 37 nonprofits to receive Dept. of Labor grants

Millersville University and Northampton Community College are among 37 nonprofits nationwide to receive grants from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The more than $6.7 million in grants will fund education and training programs to help workers and employers recognize infectious diseases, including coronavirus health hazards, and identify preventive measures for a safe workplace, according to a Department of Labor press release. In addition to hazard control, the training will also include understanding worker rights and employer responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

The award includes “Workplace Safety and Health Training on Infectious Diseases, including the Coronavirus” grants funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The grants derive from the Susan Harwood Workplace Safety and Health Training program, named for in honor of the late Susan Harwood, former director of OSHA’s Office of Risk Assessment.

In her 17-year OSHA career, she helped develop federal standards to protect workers from bloodborne pathogens, cotton dust, benzene, formaldehyde, asbestos, and lead in construction, according to the release.

Millersville University was awarded $193,263 to offer 2 to 7 hours of COVID-19 training for 800 employees and workers in long-term care facilities. The program will target small businesses and limited English-speaking and youth workers.

Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, was awarded $151,661 to offer 3.5 to 4 hours of COVID-19 training for 700 employees and workers in the healthcare industry, including small businesses, limited English-speaking workers, low- to non-literate workers, youth, and at-risk workers.

The program funds grants to nonprofit organizations, including community and faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor-management associations, colleges and universities. Target trainees include small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries. These grants are a critical element in supporting OSHA’s role in educating workers on their rights and assisting employers with providing safe workplaces.

Allentown Arts Commission offers COVID-19 grants to local groups

The Allentown Arts Commission has created the Arts and Cultural Relief Fund to provide small grants to city arts and culture organizations that have experienced revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allentown Arts Commission chair Jane Heft said the grants will be up to $7,500.
The City of Allentown is committed to the concept that a rich, cultural life is crucial to the well-being of Allentown’s citizens, she said in a press release Friday. To that end, the City of Allentown has made available limited funding to support non-profit arts and cultural organizations in the city. This new reimbursement-based program has earmarked $75,000 for the effort.
“The arts community is integral to the fabric of Allentown,” said Leonard Lightner, Director of Allentown’s Community & Economic Development Department. “These individuals contribute to the city’s vibrant arts and culture, which is temporarily at risk.”
Eligibility is limited to arts and cultural organizations, defined as creating, preserving and/or exhibiting visual, literary, and performing arts, architecture, science, history and the humanities. Applicants must be physically located within the city limits and be a registered 501(c)3 or registered Allentown business, and have been in operation since January 1, 2019.
While organizations that have received federal, state, or county funding previously are eligible to apply, priority will be given to those organizations that have not received COVID-19 funding relief, the release stated.
To apply for an Arts and Culture Emergency Relief grant, visit the Allentown Arts Commission website at AllentownPA.gov/ArtsGrant. Applications will be accepted until 1 p.m. Friday, September 3. Funds will be distributed on a rolling basis between September-December 2021.

Lehigh University joins growing list of those requiring staff vaccinations

Because of the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 and concerns over the Delta variant, Lehigh University in Bethlehem has joined a growing number of entities requiring vaccinations against the virus.

The university has alerted staff and faculty that the will be required to be fully vaccinated this fall unless they have received an approved medical or religious exemption from the requirement.

Lehigh had previously announced that all graduate and undergraduate students would be required to be vaccinated before the fall semester.

“While no vaccine provides a guarantee against infection, COVID vaccination is effective at preventing serious illness and death and continues to be the best protection against the spread of more contagious variants of the virus. We believe that this step is necessary to ensure that we can provide the educational environment and workplace that students, faculty and staff expect,” said interim President Nathan Urban in a message on the school’s website.

Faculty and staff must provide confirmation that they are fully vaccinated, or are in the process of becoming fully vaccinated, or apply for exemption by Aug. 23.

While those working for the school can receive their vaccinations at the place of their choosing, the school has organized a vaccine clinic for Aug. 17 to assist with getting the vaccine to them.

There have been a number of major companies that have recently announced that they would be requiring vaccinations for employees including Delta Airlines.

California recently announced that it would require vaccinations of most health care workers in the state.

Virginia is requiring all state workers be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 tests.

The idea is not without controversy, however, especially in academics.

There have been challenges to the requirements at other schools, The Wall Street Journal reported that a number of students at major public universities have sued their school over the vaccine mandate. However, such requirements have held up to court challenges recently.

The Society for Human Resource Management reported recently that a federal judge in Texas upheld a hospital system’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy by dismissing a lawsuit that claimed vaccines against the coronavirus are experimental.

Neffs National Bank honored for PPP loan work

Neffs National Bank’s Michail Georgevic, commercial loan portfolio manager; Greta Mast, vice president of commercial lending; and Marianne Eisenhauer, vice president of commercial lending & credit administration at the Pennsylvania Association of Community Banker’s Inspire Awards. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Neffs National Bank wasn’t an active Small Business Administration lender.

But, after a short learning curve that quickly changed and now the bank has been honored for its work in helping people obtain SBA Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans by the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers.

The bank received the organization’s Inspire Award for coming to the aid of the small businesses it serves in the community.

Marianne Eisenhauer, vice president of commercial lending & credit administration for Neffs, said the bank is proud of the way it was able to help so many small businesses, and gain customers in the process.

“Our phones were ringing off the hook with current customers asking us to help them with the PPP,” she  said.

The problem was that bank’s staff wasn’t familiar with the SBA lending process used for the forgivable loans. “It was challenging because we had to learn the process,” she said. “We had to find a way to get up and running and provide those loans to our customers.”

Once they were able to figure the process out, the bank’s lenders worked directly with small-business owners to help them to obtain the loans and make it an easier process.

She said many of the bigger banks weren’t offering such hands on service, so some of their current customers recommended Neffs to other business owners to get the help they needed. Because the bank was working directly with the SBA and not a third party vendor, they were able to get the money to their customers quickly.

“It was a lot of work, but in the end we got a lot of new customers because of it,” Eisenhauer said.

In all, Neffs helped obtain 370 loans for community businesses to help them maintain payroll and stay in business during the shutdown. One of those companies was a community pharmacy that used its PPP loan to keep its employees on payroll and a few months later were providing COVID vaccines in community.