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White House pledges to help states fulfill coronavirus testing needs

Hard-hit states like New York and New Jersey would receive the most money

A health care worker conducts a COVID-19 test at a drive-thru testing facility at George Washington University on May 5.
A health care worker conducts a COVID-19 test at a drive-thru testing facility at George Washington University on May 5. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The White House on Monday said the administration would “fully supply” states with swabs and other components for coronavirus testing during May, and unveiled details on the allocation of $11 billion in testing funds for state governments. 

Testing supplies such as swabs and chemical reagents have been in shortage since the pandemic began, although signs indicate the supply chain is slowly rebounding. But the country is still testing around 2 million people per week, far below what most public health experts say is needed to safely relax economic restrictions in a country of nearly 330 million.

The $11 billion in funds, which Congress provided in the most recent coronavirus aid package, will be allotted based on each state’s population and number of COVID-19 cases.

Hard-hit states like New York and New Jersey would receive the most — $500 million, according to a map shown at a White House briefing — while sparsely populated states like Wyoming would receive between $49 million and $99 million.

Senior administration officials said the White House was directly sending states any supplies needed for specimen collection to meet their testing goals for May, while also connecting state governments directly with manufacturers for other supplies needed to process specimens in the lab.

A senior official said the administration was providing collection supplies to cover testing for at least 2 percent of a state’s population. States with loftier goals would be given supplies to cover a maximum of four times the number of tests they have performed so far this year. The administration will keep more supplies in reserve for any states that need them. 

Officials touted numbers indicating that the U.S. has conducted around 9 million tests, with nearly 13 million more projected over the next four weeks.

“No matter how you look at it, America is leading the world in testing,” Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir said.

The United States accounts for about one-third of global COVID-19 cases although it has about 4 percent of the world’s population. 

States must send the administration detailed testing and tracing strategies within a couple of weeks, officials said, including specific deliverables and goals for monitoring both at-risk populations like nursing homes as well as spread from asymptomatic patients. Democrats have criticized the administration for lacking its own similarly detailed plan.

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