White House to expand Covid-19 testing and manufacturing
President Biden laid out his new plan to increase domestic manufacturing of Covid-19 testing supplies, expand testing capacity, and better prepare for the threat of variants. “As the Administration is working around the clock to vaccinate the population, we need to continue to do what we know works to protect public health: universal masking, physical distancing, and robust testing. These down payments will serve as a bridge to comprehensive testing investments in the American Rescue Plan.” read the announcement issued by the White House.
The Biden-Harris administration will invest $650 million to expand Covid-19 testing for K-8 schools and underserved populations. To help organise the distribution of Covid-19 testing supplies, in partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will partner with laboratories across the country, to collect specimens, perform tests and report results to public health agencies.
“Too often, testing can be hard to implement in non-medical settings or it can be hard for schools or other congregate settings to find the right partner to make testing work. These coordinating centres will identify existing testing capacity, match it up to an area of need, and fund that testing.”
Increasing Domestic Manufacturing
To help with raw material shortages and increase domestic manufacturing of testing supplies, the HHS and DOD will invest $815 million. The raw materials being targeted include filter pipette tips, nitrocellulose used in antigen point-of-care tests, and specific injected moulded plastics needed to house testing reagents.
Expanding Virus Genome Sequencing
To identify, track and mitigate risks posed by emerging strains variants of SARS-CoV-2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will invest nearly $200 million into genome sequencing, the “down payment” will increase CDC’s from approximately 7,000 samples per week to about 25,000.
Increasing samples will improve the ability to detect emerging variants and gain a better understanding of how they spread. As sequencing only occurs after a Covid-19 test shows as positive, expanding testing is critical to increasing genomic sequencing.
The announcement concluded, “These investments are only the beginning of what is needed to expand testing nationwide and get the pandemic under control. The American Rescue Plan will invest $50 billion to expand and support testing, including in priority settings like schools and shelters, and invest in U.S. testing capacity so that public health officials can track the virus in real-time and Americans can efficiently get results.”