The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide state and local public health departments with $186 million in funding to help track and test for COVID-19, HHS said on Monday.
The CDC will use the funding to support ongoing efforts to address coronavirus "hot zones" and areas with a rapid increase in reported cases that could soon become hot zones.
In addition, the agency will give the emergency infections program a boost to improve the ability of public health departments to track the virus, including funds to "assess and evaluate exposed/infected healthcare personnel through clinical interviews to better identify risk factors and protective factors for COVID-19 infection," HHS said in a statement.
"These funds will augment core public health capabilities including surveillance and predictive analytics, laboratory capacity, qualified frontline deployers, and the ability to rapidly respond to emerging disease clusters in communities that currently have limited person to person spread of the virus," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said.
A greater focus on tracking and testing could help slow transmission of the virus and reduce the number of new cases. It takes up to two weeks for people infected with COVID-19 to develop symptoms, which can worsen the virus' spread as asymptomatic people infect others.
Public health experts say that the number of new cases is likely to increase for several weeks after the pandemic peaks because of the lag between when people become inflected and when they develop symptoms. So it could take a while for social distancing and quarantines to drive down the number of new cases and end the outbreak, even if people strictly adhere to the guidelines.