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COVID-19 Contracting Accelerated As US Fiscal Year 2020 Drew To A Close

COVID-19 Contracting Accelerated As US Fiscal Year 2020 Drew To A Close

Source : 'The Pink Sheet'

The coronavirus pandemic generated a flurry of US government contracting activity as fiscal year 2020 ended 30 September.

There were additional contracts with Pfizer Inc., Fresenius Kabi AG, Lake Zurich, IL, and Baxter Healthcare Pty Ltd, Deerfield, IL, to stockpile medicines need for COVID-19 treatment with 2020 monies as winter – and possible weather-related increases in disease prevalence – approached.

There also were awards – and a new wastewater sampling contract solicitation – focused on continuing and improving upon the government’s ability to anticipate the course of the pandemic, particularly with the Health and Human Services Department’s new HHS Predict software.

The HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response awarded Pfizer $22.2m on 25 September to deliver hydromorphone, cisatracurium, zosyn, cefepime, dobutamine, ondansetron, dopamine and heparin to eight strategic national stockpile locations by 31 December.

Supplies of these medicines have been depleted by increased demand in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ASPR relied on its COVID-19 response class justification to explain why it did not allow full and open competition for the contract.

HHS' ASPR office on 18 September contracted for a second tranche of COVID-19-related medicines for delivery to the Strategic National Stockpile.

ASPR awarded Fresenius Kabi $35m and Baxter Healthcare Corp., Deerfield, IL, $29.9m to acquire unspecified pharmaceuticals for treatment of COVID-19 patients and stockpiling.

ASPR relied on its COVID-19 class justification for awarding the procurements on a sole-source basis.

ASPR had on 10 July awarded initial sole-source contracts to Fresenius ($12.5m) and Baxter ($3.6m) for critically needed ICU medications as part of the government’s COVID-19 response.

In an unusual development, the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn the office of the HHS chief information officer into the business of wastewater sampling, a realm historically restricted to other federal entities like the Environmental Protection Agency.

The HHS office on 2 October requested proposals for collection and analysis of wastewater samples “to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Noting that SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater tend to increase five to 11 days before COVID-19 cases do, HHS explained in a statement of work that wastewater testing data fed into its HHS Protect platform “will illustrate a more complete picture of local, community-level COVID-19 trends, where clinical cases may be underreported and transmission levels not well understood.”

It could be of particular help in communities that lack access to testing or that refrain from getting tested.

HHS is looking to hire a contractor that will “support wide-scale and regular testing of the American population for COVID-19 using wastewater epidemiology to help guide the overall reopening strategiy, but also serve as an early warning system for local re-emergence events to enable rapid containment.”

The contractor will work with communities in 42 states. Phase 1 of the contract will focus on 100 wastewater treatment plants that serve 36 million people, or about 10% of the US population. In the second phase, it will be expanded to some 320 wastewater treatment plants serving some 100 million people, or about 30% of the US population.

No longer will the HHS organization that oversees the Strategic National Stockpile have to rely on manual calculations to study options for responding to the swiftly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

The Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response’s Division of Strategic National Stockpile on 17 September awarded a $65,650 contract to FlexSim Software Products Inc., Orem, UT, to help automate the response planning process.

“Currently, the division lacks the capability to subject plans to variables for determining the effectiveness and appropriateness of those plans and processes other than through manual calculating processes,” ASPR explained in the solicitation/contract/order’s statement of work.

The FlexSim contract will enable “the utilization of simulations and models integrated into emerging and changing operations,” according to a 23 September award notice.

The stockpile division’s Information & Planning Branch “needs an ability to create simulations and models of DSNS processes and plans with variable inputs and requirements in order to determine likely outcomes of various response scenarios,” the award notice said.

“The ability to evaluate plans and processes in a compressed and real-time scenario will assist DSNS with planning and executing all-hazards response plans [and] add a capability to assign variables to processes and plans, which will show potential failure points and best courses of action simultaneously.”

The branch will use the simulations to help plan enhanced responses, explain the enhancements to internal and external stakeholders – and help other agencies “with managing expectations of DSNS capabilities.”

The HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on 23 September awarded a $10m follow-on contract for COVID-19-related support to Boston Consulting Group, Windsor Mill, MD. That was the day the initial sole-source, six-month contract ended.

The six-month fiscal year 2020 contract for mission-essential-function scenario planning and response began on 30 September, the last day of the fiscal year, and includes an option for an additional six months that could carry it through 29 September 2021.

Under the contract, Boston Consulting Group, or BCG, will help CMS “develop, plan and perform risk-based scenario planning and response exercises that assess and mitigate potential program and operational risks associated with performing mission essential functions while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the document used to justify the sole-source procurement.

The agency said BCG has been supporting strategic initiatives in the CMS administrator’s office for the past 18 months and that under the initial COVID-19 support contract, BCG “stood up the initial pandemic response and risk management efforts.”

ASPR on 5 October extended a 9 April sole-source contract with TeleTracking Technologies for another six months and $10.2m.

ASPR explained in justifying the sole-source nature of the award that TeleTracking gives “HHS visibility into hospital bed census, capacity and patient acuity, including unit, facility and health system census in a multi-tenant software-as-a-service platform that feeds the HHS COVID-19 data sharing and analysis platform – HHS Protect – allowing HHS and our partners to make data-backed decisions in the COVID-19 response.”

The six-month add-on gives time to compete a follow-on procurement, ASPR explained.

The National Institutes of Health on 11 September awarded seven contracts for research and development of COVID-19 digital health solutions:

IBM, Bethesda, MD, $4.9m, for IBM’s Digital Health Pass and smarter contract tracing solutions;

Icrypto Inc., Santa Clara, CA, $1.8m for its Clear2Go digital health solution;

Evidation Health Inc., Menlo Park, CA, $800,000 for its COVID-19 Ongoing Monitoring, or COMmunity digital health solution;

Physiq Inc., Naperville, IL, $6.6m for its personalized analytics wearable biosensor platform for early detection of COVID-19 decompensation;

Vignet Inc., Fairfax, VA, $4.2m for its COVID Community Action and Research Engagement (COVID-CARE) solution;

Shee Atika Enterprises LLC, Sitka, AK, $3.6m for unspecified COVID-19 digital health solutions; and

The regents of the University of California, San Francisco, CA, $856,500 for their Covidseeker and COVID-19 Citizen Science digital health solutions.

The HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on 28 September awarded Health Level Seven International Inc., Ann Arbor, MI, a $4.6m contract “in support of COVID-19” that provides administrative support and facilitates stakeholder outreach for the Health IT standard’s US Realm.

 

By Bowman Cox