Monday 24 August 2020

Billions of Dollars Set Aside for COVID-19 Testing Still Unspent

Billions of dollars approved by Congress this past spring to ramp up COVID-19 testing is unspent, according to a new report.
Department of Health and Human Services data shows that of the $25 billion allocated for testing, only about 10 percent to 15 percent has either been spent or committed, according to a Wall Street Journal report that was reprinted by MSN.
The report said $10.25 billion went to states and U.S. territories in May for those governments to expand testing and create coronavirus contact-tracing programs at their discretion. As of Aug. 14, $121 million of that pot had been touched.
“No health department or state can cry poor during this health crisis,” Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s not a matter of more money. It’s a matter of using the money that has already been given to counties and states effectively.”
HHS is using about $8 billion of the overall funding as needed, but the cash hasn’t been shared, HHS spokeswoman Mia Heck said.
“HHS continues to monitor the situation and support response and recovery activities supported with additional emergency supplemental resources,” she said.
The fund also sent $5.7 billion to various agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Through last week, $1.62 billion had been spent or committed, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Another $2 billion was set aside to test uninsured individuals. As of last week, $235.5 million of that fund had been spent.
Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the HHS, said the agency is continually working to expand testing.
“There are plenty of tests, and that’s growing substantially,” Giroir told the WSJ.
He said about 25 million tests were done in July, with the potential for 90 million  in September.
Giroir said the nation’s medical infrastructure can only process so many tests a day.
“There is no physical way to do 5 million tests per day in this country,” Giroir said last week, according to CNN.  If there’s a way to turn it from 1 million to 5 million today, let me know.”
Giroir said “everything that can possibly be done has been done” to get Americans tested.
More tests might be coming now that the Trump administration has stopped requiring FDA approval for new tests.
“This is what we needed and asked for five months ago,” Melissa Miller, director of the University of North Carolina Medical Center’s Clinical Molecular Microbiology Laboratory, told The Washington Post.
If labs did not need to go through the FDA, Miller said, “We would have been able to roll out and expand testing earlier in the pandemic.”

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