A student gives her coronavirus COVID-19 swab to Dr. Helenann Civian, the principal of South Boston Catholic Academy in Boston on Jan. 19, 2021. Pool testing means an entire classroom of students puts their swabs in the same cup and it’s tested as one sample, making it faster/cheaper.
Suzanne Kreiter | Boston Globe | Getty Images
The Biden administration is pouring $10 billion from the recently passed stimulus package into Covid-19 testing for schools in an effort to hasten the return to in-person learning across the country.
The goal is “to help get schools open in the remaining months of this school year,” the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday. The funding is set to go out to states from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by April, the administration said.
The money will be used to provide diagnostic tests to symptomatic teachers, staff and students, as well as those who don’t have symptoms but might have been exposed to an infectious person. The funding will also be deployed to ensure schools can conduct “serial screening testing” to identify infectious teachers, staff and students who don’t have symptoms.
President Joe Biden has made safely reopening the nation’s schools for in-person learning a focus of his first 100 days in office. Data from Burbio, a service that tracks school opening plans, recently reported that almost half of K-12 students are already learning in person five days a week, and another 30% are attending school in person at least part of the time.
The Biden administration previously announced $650 million in funding for testing in K-8 schools and he has challenged states to vaccinate all teachers and school staff in the country by the end of March. Biden’s focus on and investment in testing stands in contrast to the Trump administration, which downplayed the need to ramp up availability of testing 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 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.”
The administration also announced that it will invest $2.25 billion in Covid-19 testing for high-risk and underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minority groups and people living in rural areas. HHS said it’s the CDC’s largest investment yet to specifically address pandemic-related health disparities.
On top of the funding, the administration said the CDC is crafting new guidance “for how to use screening testing to identify, track, and mitigate asymptomatic transmission.” The administration said the guidance will include a breakdown of the various kinds of Covid-19 tests and how to most strategically deploy them.