Biden Boosts Test Funding as GOP Demands Faster School Reopening

The Biden administration said it will send states billions for coronavirus testing to help reopen schools safely as Republicans in Congress pushed for students to get back into classrooms faster.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is allocating $10 billion to help schools screen teachers, staff, and students, according to a statement. Another $2.25 billion will support scaled-up testing in underserved populations and development of new guidance on screening in schools, workplaces, and congregate settings.

Lawmakers as well as parents have been increasingly concerned about getting children back into schools and resuming their educational and social development. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for testing in a variety of settings, including schools, for greater safety and accessibility, Director Rochelle Walensky said in a briefing.

The new guidance “offers a comprehensive approach to testing and helps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 through the rapid identification and isolation of people who are infected,” she said, “including those who do not know they’re infected because they do not have symptoms.”

Republican Criticism

Republicans criticized the administration earlier the same day for delays in getting children back into schools. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee member from Washington state, cited the psychological damage to children in a hearing where Walensky also appeared.

“Schools remain closed because of fear and politics, not science,” McMorris Rodgers said in the hearing.

Meanwhile, First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Christa McAuliffe School in Concord, New Hampshire to tout the administration’s $1.9 trillion aid plan that was passed last week. While it sends thousands directly to many lower-income families, the American Rescue Plan includes billions in funding for schools working to reopen without allowing cases to resurge.

“This school, like schools across the country, can’t fully reopen without help,” Biden said. “ So today, I’m here to tell you that with the American Rescue Plan, help is here. We’re going to reopen our schools and we’re going to do it safely.”

‘Strong Signal’

The government also committed $150 million to increase awareness and accessibility to Covid monoclonal antibodies, treatments from Eli Lilly & Co. and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that have been cleared to treat pepole in the early stages of infection. They can also help head off infection in those who can’t be vaccinated.

Although the treatments are available across the country, she said there is still work to do to make sure that these treatments are available and accessible to the highest risk communities in the coming weeks, said Marcella Nunez-Smith, who leads Biden’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force.

The NIH recommendations send “a really strong signal to patients as well as providers” all over the country that these treatments are efficacious,” she said in the press briefing.

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