Health and Human Services Announces Actions to Expand COVID-19 Testing

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced new actions to expand COVID-19 testing capacity across the country. The agency asserts these actions will improve the availability of tests, including for schools and underserved populations, increase domestic manufacturing of tests and testing supplies, and better prepare the nation for the threat of variants by rapidly increasing virus genome sequencing.

First, the Administration stated it will expand COVID-19 testing for schools and underserved populations. HHS will partner with the Department of Defense (DOD) to make a $650 million investment to expand testing opportunities for K-8 schools and underserved congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, directly through new coordination “hubs.” HHS and DOD will establish regional coordinating centers to organize COVID-19 increased testing capacity, and to partner with laboratories, including universities, across the country to collect specimens, perform the tests, and report results to the relevant public health agencies for up to 25 million additional tests per month. This effort will bring more testing to teachers, staff, and students—an important step to support President Biden’s plan to re-open schools for in-person learning.

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Second, the Administration says it will ramp up the domestic manufacturing of testing supplies and raw materials to address testing shortages. HHS and DOD will make 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.

Third, the Administration stated, through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will rapidly increase genomic sequencing of the virus to better prepare for the threat of variants and slow the spread of disease. CDC will invest nearly $200 million to expand genomic sequencing capabilities, including bioinformatics, reporting, and modeling, to increase sequencing three-fold per week. This is integral to identifying new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and preventing and mitigating their spread. 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.

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“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.

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