Wednesday's announcement by the White House stated that 5 million rapid tests as well as 5 million lab-based, PCR tests will be available to schools beginning this month. This is to alleviate supply shortages and promote safe reopening schools. This is in addition to the more than $10 billion allocated to school-based tests in the COVID-19 relief legislation and approximately $130 billion that was earmarked in that law for keeping kids in school.
Miguel Cardona, Education Secretary, stated that students must be in their classrooms. The announcement shows that the administration is committed to keeping schools open.
Cardona stated Wednesday that she is doing all she can to ensure that children can continue to school.
Cardona stated that states are applying for tests at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also said that distribution would begin as soon as next week.
"We recognize schools as the hubs in the community," the secretary said, adding that they should be open for instruction because it is "vital to our students."
This push is part the broad-ranging efforts of the Biden administration to increase supply and accessibility for COVID-19 test, as it faces increasing criticism about long waiting times and shortages of testing across the country. On Wednesday, the White House announced that Dr. Tom Inglesby from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Bloomberg School of Public Health will join its COVID-19 Response Team to supervise its testing efforts.
Private insurers will have to pay for eight COVID-19 at-home tests per month starting Saturday. The administration is close to launching a new website that will allow Americans to request 500 million free tests that will be sent to their homes.
However, the increased supply testing will not be enough for many Americans who are trying to navigate the omicron-fueled surge in cases, which is already beginning to show signs of cresting.
After a dispute between officials and teachers over policies for reopening schools, Chicago's third-largest school system in the country was closed for several days. Wednesday's school testing initiative comes after that. This was an embarrassment for President Joe Biden who has made it a priority to reopen schools and keep them open.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated Monday that "We have been very clear publicly and privately that we want schools to open." The massive funding of schools is evidence that the administration was prepared to deal with any pandemic.
Only a fraction of the country's more than 50,000,000 students and teachers will be covered by the new test crop. The tests are intended to fill critical gaps in schools that have difficulty getting federal funding for tests or are suffering from the more deadly COVID-19 variant.
Additionally, the administration is pursuing other federally supported testing sites in support of school testing programs. This includes locating Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sites at schools.
The CDC will also release guidance to schools later in the week. Schools can use "test-to stay" policies that allow them to quickly test for positives in order to maintain close contact with those who are in the classroom.