Share this @internewscast.com
The Biden administration announced on Wednesday it is providing $600m in funding to produce new, at-home Covid-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to again order up to four free tests per household – aiming to prevent possible shortages during a rise in coronavirus cases that has typically come during colder months.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said orders could be placed at covidtests.gov starting 25 September, and that no-cost tests would be delivered for free by the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Twelve manufacturers that employ hundreds of people in seven states from California to Maryland have been awarded funding and will produce 200m over-the-counter tests to replenish federal stockpiles for government use, in addition to producing enough tests to meet demand for tests ordered online, the department said.
The new effort is meant to guard against supply chain issues that sparked some shortages of at-home Covid tests that were made overseas during past surges in coronavirus cases. But it also illustrates the political balance Joe Biden is trying to strike as he seeks re-election next year, between trumpeting his administration having led the country through the worst of the pandemic while also trying to better prepare for the continued effects of a virus that persists.
Dawn O’Connell, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said that though some portions of the public may be tired of the pandemic and its implications, at-home testing remains a key way to slow the spread of new cases.
“Whether or not people are done with it, we know the virus is there, we know that it’s circulating. We know, if past is prologue, it’ll circulate to a higher degree and spread, and cases will go up in the fall and winter seasons,” O’Connell said. “Anticipating that that would be true again, or something similar, we want to make sure the American people have these tools.”
O’Connell said the website will remain functional to receive orders through the holidays and “we reserve the right to keep it open even longer if we’re starting to see an increase in cases”.
“If there is a demand for these tests, we want to make sure that they’re made available to the American people for free in this way,” O’Connell said. “But, at this point, our focus is getting through the holidays and making sure folks can take a test if they’re going to see Grandma for Thanksgiving.”
The initiative follows four previous rounds when federal officials and the USPS provided more than 755m tests for free to homes nationwide.
It is also meant to complement ongoing federal efforts to provide free Covid tests to long-term care facilities, schools, low-income senior housing, uninsured individuals and underserved communities, which are already distributing 4m per week and have distributed 500m tests to date, the department said.
O’Connell said manufacturers would be able to spread out the 200m tests they will produce for federal use over 18 months. That means that, as demand for home tests rises via the website or at US retailers when Covid cases increase around the country, producers can focus on meeting those orders – but that they will then have an additional outlet for the tests they produce during periods when demand declines.
Xavier Becerra, secretary of HHS, said in a statement that the “Biden-Harris administration, in partnership with domestic manufacturers, has made great strides in addressing vulnerabilities in the US supply chain by reducing our reliance on overseas manufacturing”.
“These critical investments will strengthen our nation’s production levels of domestic at-home Covid-19 rapid tests and help mitigate the spread of the virus,” he added.