Biden redoubling focus on testing amid shortages, confusion

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Biden administration is increasing federal support for COVID-19 testing for schools to keep them open amid Omicron surge

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WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is restarting its efforts to expand the supply and access of COVID-19 testing as it faces mounting criticism over long lines and a nationwide lack of supplies for testing and Omron’s There is confusion about when to test between surges.

The White House announced Wednesday that a dedicated stream of 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests will be available to schools starting this month to ease supply shortages and promote a safe reopening of schools. Will be done

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It said the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Businesshala School of Public Health, Dr. Tom Inglesby will join the COVID-19 team to oversee the increased testing push. The move comes just days before private insurance companies were asked to reimburse Americans for tests and the launch of a new federal website for Americans to send free tests to their doorsteps.

The test supply push, however, will be too late for many Americans trying to safely navigate the Omicron-fueled case, which is already showing signs of cresting.

Dr. Rochelle Valensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday offered guidance to Americans on how to use the tests — which were in short supply as Americans traveled and saw family during the busy holiday season.

“Americans should have a test when they have symptoms that appear to be COVID-19,” she said, which include fever, cough, sore throat, respiratory symptoms and muscle aches. She also said they should be tested after known exposure to the virus, usually five days after being exposed, or earlier as part of test-to-stay protocols in schools and workplaces.

“Definitely if you’re going to gather with family, if you’re going to a gathering where people are immunocompromised or where they’re elderly or where you have people who are vaccinated or poorly protected Which could be an opportunity you want to test,” she said.

The school testing initiative announced Wednesday comes after the nation’s third largest public school system, in Chicago, closed for days after a standoff between teachers and officials over reopening policies. The closure was a black eye for President Joe Biden, who made reopening schools – and keeping them open – a priority.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said students needed to stay in their classes and the announcement reflected the administration’s commitment to helping schools stay open.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure our kids have the opportunity to stay in school,” Cardona said Wednesday on “CBS Mornings.” “That’s where they need to be, and we know we can do that safely.”

States are applying to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the test, Cardona said, adding that he expected distribution to begin early next week.

“We believe that schools are centers of the community” and they should be open to instruction, the secretary said, adding that it is “important for our students.”

“We have been very clear, publicly and privately, that we want to see schools open,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday. He cited the huge amount of funding for schools as proof of the administration being sure that “we were prepared and needed the resources to address whatever the pandemic might bring.”

The new crop of tests is enough to cover only a tiny fraction of the more than 50 million students and teachers in the nation’s schools, but it’s more than the $10 billion dedicated to school-based tests authorized in the COVID-19 relief law. is on top of. And in that law, a provision of about $130 billion has been made to keep children in school.

The administration expects the tests to fill a significant shortfall in schools that are having difficulty securing testing through existing federal funding or facing outbreaks of the more permeable COVID-19 variant.

The administration is also working to target other federally supported testing sites to support school testing programs, including locating Federal Emergency Management Agency sites in schools.

Additionally, the CDC is set to issue new guidance later this week to help schools implement “test-to-stay” policies, including for schools to keep close contact with those who test positive in the classroom. Use rapid test.

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Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

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