White House to Distribute $11 Billion in State Test Funding

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(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration plans to distribute $11 billion to states for coronavirus testing, according to senior administration officials.

The $11 billion is part of the CARES Act stimulus package. It will be distributed under a formula that reflects the burden of Covid-19 as well as population-based estimates, the officials said. The administration plans to release details about the distribution in the next day or two, the officials said.

The White House is scheduled to hold a news conference later Monday, during which President Donald Trump is expected to announce that states have set May testing goals, and that the federal government is sending materials to help them meet those goals. That includes directly supplying test-kit items like swabs, and by connecting states with manufacturers of other components such as chemical reagents used in the tests.

Shipments of specimen collection supplies were sent out to states starting last week, and each one has received initial shipments, the officials said.

Increased testing is meant to help states reopen businesses, schools and public spaces by giving public health workers tools to identify and track new cases, isolate them and their contacts, and stop the spread of disease. But for weeks state and local health departments have complained of short supplies. Capacity appears to have increased meaningfully over the last month, though states are still working to stand up their infrastructure to implement the strategies.

The officials did not say how many tests states aim to perform in May. The U.S. has performed nearly nine million tests so far, according to the officials.

The federal government has taken an active but at times mixed role in the procurement of supplies to fight the virus. State governors have criticized the federal involvement in acquiring protective gear, ventilators, tests and medicine, saying that federal priorities sometimes overrode state orders or created confusion.

The administration has taken charge, for example, of distributing a new drug from Gilead Sciences Inc. that shows promise in helping infected patients, but some states and doctors have said they were mystified by the process of deciding who got supplies of the drug and who didn’t.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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