Public health experts welcomed Congress’ decision to allocate billions for COVID-19 testing, but cautioned that money alone won’t solve the challenges states and providers face in expanding access.
“We remain concerned that hospitals and small communities may be left behind,” said Blair Holladay, CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. “The money is there, but we will need to work tirelessly to ensure that these resources are distributed adequately to the communities that need them.”
Lawmakers allocated $25 billion to expand the country’s capacity for COVID-19 testing as part of a broader $484 billion emergency relief package President Donald Trump signed April 24.
Nearly half the funding—$11 billion—will go toward helping states, municipalities, tribes and employers purchase more coronavirus tests and scale up their capacity to analyze results, as well as identify people who may have come in contact with someone who has been infected.
More than $4 billion has been dedicated to bolster testing capacity in harder-hit areas; another $2 billion is set for state grants from the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which supports public health departments.
The biggest impact is likely to be a mandate giving the Trump administration 30 days to establish a national program detailing how it will boost production, training and availability of COVID-19 tests, as well as its plans to assist states and address testing disparities.
A national testing plan has long been supported by public health experts and Democratic lawmakers, but GOP legislators and the White House have pushed for states to take the lead.