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HHS delivering funds to expand COVID-19 testing

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday it is delivering $11 billion in new funding to support testing for COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide $10.25 billion to states, territories and local jurisdictions through CDC’s existing Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases cooperative agreement. The Indian Health Service will provide $750 million to IHS, tribal and urban Indian Health programs to expand testing capacity and testing-related activities.

A detailed allocation and distribution methodology will be announced for the IHS funds in the coming days.

This funding from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act will provide critical support to develop, purchase, administer, process and analyze COVID-19 tests, conduct surveillance, trace contacts and related activities. These funds, along with the previous funding support CDC and IHS provided, will help states, tribes and territories with their efforts to reopen America.

“For the sake of all Americans’ health and well-being, we must help Americans get safely back to work and school, and that requires continued expansion of testing, surveillance, and contact tracing,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.

“As the nation cautiously begins the phased approach to reopening, this considerable investment in expanding both testing and contact tracing capacity for states, localities, territories and tribal communities is essential,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said. “Readily accessible testing is a critical component of a four-pronged public health strategy including rigorous contact tracing, isolation of confirmed cases and quarantine.

“As communities move toward a blended mitigation and containment strategy, I encourage all Americans to continue to embrace powerful public health measures – social distancing, hand washing and face coverings. We are not defenseless in the battle against this pandemic.”

“These resources will greatly expand testing capacity at federal, tribal and urban Indian organization facilities throughout the Indian health system,” IHS Director Rear Adm. Michael Weahkee said. “Testing is critical to our public health response as we work to defeat this pandemic.”

Each governor or designee of each state, locality, territory, tribe or tribal organization receiving funds shall submit to HHS its plan for COVID-19 testing, including goals for the remainder of calendar year 2020. These plans will include the number of tests needed month-by-month to include diagnostic, serological and other tests, as appropriate; month-by-month estimates of laboratory and testing capacity, including related to workforce, equipment and supplies and available tests; and a description of how the resources will be used for testing, including easing any COVID-19 community mitigation policies.

Jurisdictions will use the funding they receive to meet the testing goals laid out in their COVID-19 testing plans, including purchasing supplies such as test kits and other testing supplies, as necessary.

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