The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is releasing new funding aimed at helping schools reopen and to expand access to COVID-19 testing and treatments among underserved populations.
On Wednesday, HHS made two funding announcements – to invest more than $12 billion to expand COVID-19 testing, as well as $150 million to increase access to monoclonal antibody therapeutic treatments for patients in vulnerable communities.
A chunk of the money is going to schools to establish COVID-19-screening testing programs for teachers, staff and students. With the American Rescue Plan, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide $10 billion to states in early April through existing funding pipelines.
The CDC is also putting $2.25 billion into reducing health disparities among racial and ethnic minority groups and people living in rural areas. It’s offering grants to public health departments that will improve testing and contact-tracing capabilities, develop innovative mitigation and prevention strategies, upgrade data collection and reporting, and address social determinants of health related to COVID-19.
An additional $150 million will go to vulnerable communities to assist administration of monoclonal antibody treatments. The money may be used to increase staffing, set up infusion centers and purchase necessary equipment, HHS said.
The support will focus on communities that CDC has determined to be particularly vulnerable based on its social vulnerability index.
WHY THIS MATTERS
These funding announcements bring to life two of the key points in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan: safely reopening schools and supporting communities struggling in the wake of COVID-19.
THE LARGER TREND
This is the second time in recent weeks the federal government has intervened to ramp up testing. In February, HHS invested $650 million to expand testing for K-8 schools and in underserved settings such as homeless shelters.
The U.S. has now vaccinated 12% of the total population, according to the CDC.
As vaccination efforts continue to move forward, President Biden last week shared a pledge to make all adult Americans eligible for the vaccine by May 1, with the hope that families will be able to reunite outside at Fourth of July barbecues.
ON THE RECORD
“COVID-19 testing is critical to saving lives and restoring economic activity,” said HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran.
“As part of the Biden Administration’s National Strategy, HHS will continue to expand our capacity to get testing to the individuals and the places that need it most, so we can prevent transmission of the virus and defeat the pandemic.”