Biden administration to invest $1.6 billion to expand testing in schools, genomic sequencing

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The White House COVID-19 response team announced Wednesday that the Biden administration will invest $1.6 billion to support testing in schools, increase genomic sequencing and manufacture testing supplies.

“We need to test broadly and rapidly to turn the tide of this pandemic,” said Carole Johnson, White House COVID-19 testing coordinator. “But we still don’t have enough testing and we don’t have enough testing in all the places it needs to be.”

$815 million will be used to increase domestic manufacturing of testing supplies, particularly those that are facing a shortage including molded plastics and filter pipette tips, the Biden administration said.

Nearly $200 million will be invested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to increase virus genome sequencing to identify and track emerging variant virus strains throughout the country. This comes as CDC Director Rochelle Walensky confirmed that the variant strain first found in Bristol, England was reported in the United States.

$650 million will be used to expand testing in schools and underserved populations. The Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the Department of Defense will use the money to expand testing opportunities for K-8 schools and underserved congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, according to the Biden administration.

“Even though we don’t feel that every teacher needs to be vaccinated before you can open a school, that doesn’t take away from the fact that we strongly support the vaccination of teachers,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The CDC Friday provided a long-awaited road map for reopening schools emphasizing mask-wearing and social distancing and saying vaccination of teachers is important but not a prerequisite for reopening.

Agency officials were careful to say they are not calling for a mandate that all U.S. schools be reopened. But they said there is strong evidence now that in-person schooling can be done safely, especially at lower grade levels, and the guidance is targeted at schools that teach kindergarten up to 12th grade.

The guidance was issued as President Biden faces increasing pressure to deliver on his promise to get the majority of schools back to in-person learning by the end of his first 100 days in office. The White House said last week that a national strategy would be guided by science. Biden reiterated his stance at a Wisconsin town hall Tuesday night.

Asked when the nation would see kindergarten through eighth grades back to in-person learning five days a week, Biden said, “We’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days.” He said he expected many schools would push to stay open through the summer, but suggested reopening would take longer for high schools due to a higher risk of contagion among older students.

Biden also announced a vaccination goal of 100 million coronavirus shots in his first 100 days in office.

New figures from the White House show the steady increase in the pace of vaccinations over President Joe Biden’s first month in office.

Much of the increase, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comes from people receiving their second dose of the approved vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.

Biden is on track to beat his goal of 100 million injections in his first 100 days in office — though the pace must pick up even further to meet his plans to vaccinate nearly all adults by the end of the summer.

More than 71 million vaccine doses have been distributed across the United States, with more than 55.2 million doses administered, according to the CDC.

As the average daily new virus cases dipped below 100,000 for the first time in months as the United States seeks to picture a return to life as it was pre-pandemic. There have been more than 27.7 million confirmed cases in the United States and nearly 490,000 Americans have died from the virus, according to data complied by Johns Hopkins University.

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