Biden administration to invest $10 billion in Covid testing for schools in push to reopen

A student gives Dr. Helenann Civian, the director of the South Boston Catholic Academy in Boston, gave her coronavirus-COVID-19 swab on January 19, 2021. Pool testing means an entire classroom of students put their swabs in the same cup and it is tested like a sample, which makes it faster / cheaper.

Suzanne Kreiter | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Biden’s government is investing $ 10 billion from the recently passed stimulus package in Covid-19 tests for schools to accelerate the return to face-to-face learning across the country.

The aim is to “open schools in the remaining months of this school year,” the Ministry of Health and Human Services announced on Wednesday. The funds are to go to states from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by April, the administration said.

The money will be used to provide diagnostic tests for symptomatic teachers, staff, and students, as well as those who may have been exposed to an infectious person. The funds will also be used to ensure schools can run “serial screening tests” to identify infectious teachers, staff and students who are not experiencing symptoms.

President Joe Biden has made the safe reopening of the country’s schools for personal learning a focus of his first 100 days in office. Data from Burbio, a service tracking school opening plans, recently reported that nearly half of K-12 students are already studying face-to-face five days a week, and another 30% attend school in person at least intermittently.

Biden’s government had previously announced $ 650 million for testing at K-8 schools and urged states to vaccinate all teachers and school staff in the country by the end of March. Biden’s focus on and investment in testing contrasts with the Trump administration, which has downplayed the need to increase testing availability across the country.

“COVID-19 testing is critical to saving lives and restoring economic activity,” said Norris Cochran, acting HHS secretary. “As part of the Biden administration’s national strategy, HHS will continue to build our capacity to conduct tests in those people and places where they are most needed so that we can prevent the virus from spreading and defeat the pandemic.”

The government also announced it would invest $ 2.25 billion in Covid-19 testing for high-risk and underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minorities and people living in rural areas. HHS said it was the CDC’s largest investment yet to target the health inequalities associated with pandemics.

In addition to the funding, the administration announced that the CDC is developing new guidelines “how screening tests can be used to identify, track and mitigate asymptomatic transmission”. The administration said the guidelines will provide a breakdown of the different types of Covid-19 tests and how to deploy them most strategically.

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