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Biden administration invests $1.6 billion in COVID-19 testing 

K-8 schools and underserved settings, such as homeless shelters, will get $650 million to expand testing.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

(Photo by Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

The federal government is investing more than $1.6 billion to expand COVID-19 testing for schools and underserved populations, to ramp up testing and supply production and to increase genome sequencing. 

The Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with the Department of Defense to invest $650 million to expand testing for K-8 schools and in underserved settings such as homeless shelters. This is being done through new coordination "hubs," which are regional coordinating centers. 

The federal government is partnering with laboratories, including those in universities, across the country to collect specimens, perform the tests, and report results to the public health agencies for up to 25 million additional tests per month. 

Second, the administration, through HHS and DOD, is making an $815 million investment to increase domestic manufacturing of testing supplies and raw materials, including filter pipette tips, nitrocellulose used in antigen point-of-care tests and specific injected molded plastics needed to house testing reagents. These investments will help create more domestic sources and expand existing facilities to increase production capacity.

And last, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will invest close to $200 million to rapidly increase genomic sequencing of the virus to better prepare for the threat of variants and slow the spread of disease. The money will expand genomic-sequencing capabilities, including bioinformatics, reporting and modeling, to increase sequencing threefold per week. 

WHY THIS MATTERS

The actions are aimed at expanding COVID-19 testing for teachers, staff and students, an important step to support President Biden's plan to reopen schools for in-person learning.

Genomic sequencing is integral to identifying new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and preventing and mitigating the spread, HHS said. CDC will leverage large commercial laboratories, academic and research institutions, small-to-medium commercial laboratories, and federal laboratories to increase sequencing capacity to scale and as needed based on the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.

THE LARGER TREND

The efforts are part of President Biden's National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, a 200-page document released in January outlining a federal plan of action to combat the pandemic.

ON THE RECORD

"The Department of Health and Human Services is committed to ensuring that we expand COVID-19 testing capabilities and invest in a diverse array of testing technology, capacity, and human resources to identify and contain the spread of the virus.

"As part of the President's national strategy to combat COVID-19, we will deploy every available resource to ensure that more individuals and families have access to testing options during this unprecedented time and that our nation is prepared to contain and prevent the spread of possible variants," said HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com