Media numbers always rise for APHL when there is a public health emergency: Ebola, Zika, opioids, EVALI. But 2020 was one for the record books.

Communicate Credible Information


Communicate Credible Information

Media numbers always rise for APHL when there is a public health emergency: Ebola, Zika, opioids, EVALI. But 2020 was one for the record books. Laboratory testing has played a central role throughout the COVID-19 response like never before, pushing public health laboratories and their work into the spotlight.

On behalf of the APHL board, CEO Scott Becker and President Grace Kubin sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on February 24 urging them to allow certified laboratories to develop their own tests for SARS-CoV-2. The FDA response on February 26 allowed for group use authorization for public health laboratories, but it was not needed because on the very same day, FDA allowed public health laboratories to use the original CDC test without the problematic N3 component.

Media inquiries and interview requests flooded in as reporters increasingly recognized APHL as a trustworthy source.

Media inquiries and interview requests flooded in from major US, local, regional and international media outlets as reporters increasingly recognized APHL as a trustworthy source of candid, evidence-based information about COVID-19 testing and the state of the pandemic response. APHL staff and member experts appeared in thousands of news articles and broadcasts, as well as network and independent documentaries. Weekly telebriefings gave reporters access to APHL members and staff, who very much remain in demand as the pandemic continues.

Verified experts

As Twitter and other social media platforms began to restrict information early in the pandemic to reduce the spread of misinformation, APHL staff were able to get the Twitter accounts for APHL, Scott Becker and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists verified, increasing their reach to laboratorians, news media, policymakers and the general public. In addition to sharing timely updates about testing and response, APHL was able to amplify messages from member laboratories, partner organizations, scientists, thought leaders and informaticians, especially on data, tracking and exposure notification.

Supplies and demand

Throughout the COVID-19 response, APHL has worked to provide public health laboratories with the best possible access to testing reagents and supplies despite extremely constrained supply chains. Early in the spring, APHL staff worked with several companies to set up standing purchase orders that would allow them to provide small quantities of supplies in emergency situations, such as when the South Dakota State Public Health Laboratory was forced to stop testing due to shortages.

In late February, APHL was mentioned in 1,135 media stories in one day, reaching 2 billion viewers. For comparison, the association was mentioned about 1,300 times with a reach of 847 million viewers in all of 2019.

Regular communications with both corporate partners and members kept laboratories up to date on ever-evolving product availability and challenges, while weekly check-ins with laboratories monitored ongoing supply needs and projected shortages. Ongoing APHL advocacy efforts elevated urgent supply concerns to federal officials.

Staying informed

APHL distributed 96 Lab Alert emails in 2020 to keep members updated on continuing developments in the COVID-19 response, such as announcements, new laboratory protocols and updated CDC or FDA guidance. The team also provided frequent guidance to members and governmental leaders on the different types of serology, PCR and antigen tests, any data gaps related to their usage, and how to deploy them most effectively in a public health context.

Supporting laboratorians

The Workforce Development Committee compiled resources to help the public health laboratory community cope with the grueling mental and physical demands associated with being at the forefront of the pandemic response for months, including tips and activities to implement in laboratories, discounts for frontline workers and mental health resources.

Expanding evidence-based scholarship

APHL staff produced seven peer-reviewed journal articles on newborn screening topics including new disorder screening implementation, global empowerment of newborn screening, and analyses of the SCID and congenital adrenal hyperplasia screening landscapes. APHL members and staff contributed “Creating a Blueprint for the Future: Lessons Learned from Public Health Laboratories in the COVID-19 Response” to a COVID-19 supplement for the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, and co-authored “Diagnostic Testing for the Novel Coronavirus” for the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Banner: Washington staff assemble COVID-19 specimen collection kits for distribution to county health departments. The training lab was converted to a space for kit prep and eventually supply storage. Photo: Washington PHL


Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Responding to the
COVID-19 Pandemic

APHL Newsroom



Printable Report