The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will spend $10 billion to expand testing for schools, to aid in the president’s goal to get schools open once again.
The funds will come from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package President Biden signed last week.
“With this funding for testing, every state in America will have access to millions of dollars to set up screening testing programs, to add a layer of protection for schools, teachers and students,” Carole Johnson, the White House COVID-19 Testing Coordinator, said at a news briefing.
Allocations for each state were announced, ranging from $17 million for Wyoming to nearly $888 million for California. The District of Columbia and U.S. territories will receive funding, as will New York City, Los Angeles County, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide technical assistance to state and local health departments to set up school testing programs where they don’t yet exist.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky noted that due to limited capacity, until now testing in the U.S. has largely been used diagnostically — that is, when a person has symptoms or a known exposure. In addition to diagnostic testing, the new funding will enable schools to use frequent testing as a screening tool, which can “identify asymptomatic disease and prevent clusters before they start,” Walensky said.
The CDC released additional guidance that focuses on testing in specific settings, including correctional and detention facilities, non-health care workplaces, higher education institutions, and homeless shelters and encampments.
Andy Slavitt, the White House Senior Advisor for COVID Response, said the investments and guidance are intended to clear the way toward schools opening.
“The question I think for the administration, and for schools in the country, is not whether they can open, but how,” Slavitt said. “I think with this roadmap, with this testing resources, with these vaccinations, there is a clear path there.”