Biden to send millions of COVID-19 tests to schools in push to keep doors open

Biden to send millions of COVID test kits to schools

Washington — The Biden administration is planning to make an additional 10 million COVID-19 tests available each month to schools as part of its push for classroom doors to stay open for in-person learning amid the latest surge in coronavirus infections.

The White House said Wednesday that the new investment will more than double the volume of testing conducted at schools nationwide in November. A fact sheet from the White House highlighting the increase in tests said they will "help schools safely remain open and implement screening testing and test-to-stay programs."

With the latest push to boost testing in schools, the Biden administration said it will distribute 5 million free rapid tests to K-12 schools each month. The tests will be used for screening testing, in which some students are tested regularly with the goal of identifying those who are asymptomatic, and test-to-stay programs, in which students exposed to COVID-19 can stay in school so long as they continuously test negative and follow mitigation measures.

States can request the additional tests for high-need school districts, with the first shipments expected to be delivered later this month, according to the White House.

The administration said it is also making lab capacity available to support an additional 5 million PCR tests per month.

In the past year, the Biden administration provided $10 billion for states to set up K-12 testing programs for students and faculty and $130 billion for the safe reopening of schools through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan enacted last year.

A senior administration official told CBS News it estimates roughly 75% of states have used the money allotted for testing programs, leaving about 12 states that have yet to spend all the funding from their portion of the $10 billion distributed last year.

The latest investment in tests for schools comes as Americans are still struggling to find at-home COVID-19 testing kits and, in some places, face hours-long waits at testing facilities. While the highly transmissible Omicron variant has led to skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the White House has continued to push for schools to remain open.

Ninety-six percent of schools opened for in-person learning in January, according to the White House, up from 46% in January 2021.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that the president believes "the mental health impact on kids of not having schools open is very harsh and hard, and he does not want to see schools closed across the country."

A senior administration official said Health and Human Services projects roughly 575 million over-the-counter COVID tests will be available to the U.S. market in January. That excludes the plan for 500 million tests the president announced in December. 

Bo Erickson and Arden Farhi contributed to this report

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