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HHS releases COVID-19 state testing plans

The plans include details on reaching vulnerable populations including minorities, immunocompromised individuals and older adults. 

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has publicly posted the July through December COVID-19 testing plans from all states, territories and localities on HHS.gov.

The state testing plans serve as a road map, developed in partnership with the federal government, for each jurisdiction's monthly testing strategy.

For the plan, states were requested to detail how a minimum of 2% of the population would be tested each month, and to submit a strategy to increase that number by the fall. 

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States must list laboratories that will perform tests, along with each laboratory's available platforms and capacity by month. 

The overall goals for each state were determined in a federal-state collaboration considering multiple factors, including the rate of new cases, plans for mitigation, percent positivity and other factors.

Each state plan is required to include target numbers of tests per month, as outlined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases guidance document.

Each state plan is required to ensure adequate SARS-CoV-2 testing, including tests for contact tracing and surveillance of asymptomatic persons to determine community spread. 

Plans must also ensure testing plan provisions are in place to meet current and future surge capacity, including ones for nursing homes.

The plans should address any essential partnerships with academic, commercial and hospital laboratories needed to meet testing demand.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Surges in COVID-19 cases have strained testing capacity, with complaints about long turn-around times for results.

More rapid testing is important for hospitals to determine whether a patient is infected and needs to be isolated. It also affects the use of personal protection equipment and other supplies. 

The HHS plan puts the responsibility on states to manage the testing programs, which are executed locally, with federal support.

Teams designated by state governors have worked with HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop plans that set state-specific targets for SARS-CoV-2 testing. 

HHS said a multidisciplinary team of experts completed a technical review for each jurisdictions' plan to ensure that it is sufficient to mitigate the spread of the virus, protect vulnerable groups, and account for adequate testing supplies and reagents to reach jurisdiction testing goals.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff in each state will provide technical assistance on plan implementation, including flexible testing strategies and contact tracing.

Due to disparities in testing and treatment for minority and vulnerable populations, the plans include details on responding to surges in cases and reaching these populations, immunocompromised individuals and older adults. 

THE LARGER TREND

In late July, the National Institutes of Health said it was investing $248.7 million in new technologies to address challenges associated with COVID-19 testing. 

NIH's Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative awarded contracts to seven biomedical diagnostic companies to support a range of new lab-based and point-of-care tests that could increase the number, type and availability of tests by millions per week as early as September. 

With national demand estimated to be millions more tests per day above current levels, these technologies are expected to make a significant contribution to expanding the nation's testing capacity, NIH said.

To help meet the numeric testing targets for each state, the federal government has been procuring and distributing certain testing supplies that are in short supply – namely, swabs and transport media solutions – to each state and territory since May, HHS said. 

Additionally, in May, the CDC awarded a total of $10.25 billion to states, territories and localities to help implement the goals of each jurisdiction's testing plan. States, territories and localities are expected to continue using these funds to purchase tests and related supplies, as necessary.

ON THE RECORD

"Testing is not just about overall numbers. It is about making sure we're testing the right people at the right time, and incorporating testing into a comprehensive plan for addressing COVID-19," said Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett P. Giroir, MD. "These state plans, along with ongoing and intensive technical assistance provided by HHS, inform what level of federal support each state requires to successfully execute SARS-CoV-2 testing priorities."

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