The Biden administration says it will up the number of COVID-19 tests it provides to schools.
The White House announced on Wednesday that it will begin sending 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests to schools each month. Officials say this will double the amount of testing schools were performing in November.
This after the administration has already spent $130 billion from the American Rescue Plan meant to keep schools open, plus an additional $10 billion for testing at schools.
“The Omicron variant is driving unprecedented demand for testing, so we need to ensure school leaders have the support they need to meet that demand,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said during a Jan. 12 update.
The roughly 350,000 students in Chicago Public Schools returned to the classroom on Wednesday after missing four days of school due to the district’s teachers union voting to suspend in-person learning over concerns surrounding the surge of Omicron cases.
The deal reached between teachers and the district includes the goal of ramping up a testing program that would have at least 10 percent of students in every school tested on a weekly basis.
96 percent of schools across the country are currently open for in-person learning, according to the White House.
The number of COVID-19 cases nationwide has risen substantially over the past few weeks.
This week’s data counts a 47 percent increase in cases, with an average of 751,000 per day. Hospitalizations are up 33 percent to 19,800 each day, and there are also 40 percent more COVID-related deaths at 1,600 each day.
The administration has received criticism for the lack of tests available during the surge.
When asked by a Fox News reporter Jan. 10 why the White House was unprepared for the need for testing after the holidays, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded by pointing to “unprecedented demand” and the administration’s efforts to open 20,000 testing sites nationwide and increase the number of tests issued each day from 900,000 to about “10 or 11 million” over the past year.
The White House announced on Wednesday that Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, will join its COVID-19 team to oversee the testing effort.
In the coming days, private insurers will be required to reimburse Americans for tests and the launch of a new federal website for Americans to order free tests to be shipped to their doors.