The White House vowed Wednesday to provide 10 million more COVID-19 tests per month to schools amid a surge in the Omicron variant — even as it is still working to roll out President Biden’s weeks-old plan to deliver 500 million at-home tests.
The Biden administration said it would distribute 5 million rapid tests to schools and make an additional 5 million PCR tests available via a Department of Health and Human Services program that collects virus samples and sends them to labs.
“These 10 million additional tests each month will allow schools to double the volume of testing they were performing in November,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said at a press conference.
“The president is clear: The nation’s schools can and should be open. And we have given state and local leaders the resources to ensure they can be open.”
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said the additional tests are meant to keep the nation’s schools open. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File
The extra tests — which come as the country’s seven-day daily average of infections soared to 751,000 — are in addition to “a dedicated supply of tests that [schools] secured months ago,” Zients said.
Meanwhile, the White House is still working to mass-mail the 500 million rapid tests to homes that the president promised Americans more than three weeks ago.
Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday at a Senate hearing that the Biden administration had contracted for just 50 million test kits so far out of the 500 million.
“We’re in the process of procuring the 500 million tests, which every American household will be able to order and have shipped directly to their house. We have completed four contracts so far, have secured 50 million tests and are in the process of securing the additional tests over the next several days,” O’Connell said.
Employees of the Miami-Dade Public Library System distribute COVID-19 home rapid test kits in Miami, Florida, on Jan. 8, 2022. AFP via Getty Images
“We anticipate the first tests going out at the end of this month with the remaining tests going out over the next 60 days,” she added.
The administration hasn’t yet launched a website for people to request the rapid tests and it’s unclear if those tests will reach homes in time to counter the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
The White House reportedly rejected an expert plan in October that called for “Every American Household to Receive Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays/New Year” to combat a possible COVID-19 winter surge.
President Biden’s administration is still working to deliver 500 million at-home tests it promised Americans more than three weeks ago.AFP via Getty Images
Biden denied to The Post that his staff rejected the expert plan — with the White House arguing that he belatedly embraced the mass-distribution drive late last month as cases increased.
The White House has previously invested $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan to ramp up screening testing to allow in-person learning at schools, Zients said Wednesday.
He didn’t say when US schools would receive extra tests, or whether private schools will be included in the plan.