Biden administration to spend $1.6 billion to expand COVID-19 tests

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President Joe Biden’s administration will allocate roughly $1.6 billion to expand production of coronavirus tests and coordinate testing in the nation’s schools.

The White House announced Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense will spend $650 million to “expand testing opportunities for K-8 schools and other facilities including homeless shelters. It will also spend $815 million to increase production of testing supplies.

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“We need to test broadly and rapidly to turn the tide of this pandemic, but we still don’t have enough testing, Carole Johnson, the White House’s testing coordinator, said during a White House briefing.

The White House also announced that it will spend nearly $200 million to identify and track new emerging variants of the virus. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that the US had found its first case of a new version -- first found in Bristol -- of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus. The US has found 1,277 total cases of the U.K. variant in 42 states so far, she said.

The U.K. strain is more easily transmitted and officials have said it could become the dominant strain in the US by late March.

The announcement comes as Biden continues to advocate for passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid proposal. Johnson said the package is still needed to further expand testing, saying the announcements of other spending “are merely a bridge until Congress passes the American rescue plan.

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