Oct 6, 2021 - Health

White House to expand supply of at-home COVID tests by December

A rapid COVID test station at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

A rapid COVID test station at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in California. Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

The Biden administration will spend an additional $1 billion on rapid at-home COVID-19 tests, a White House official confirmed Wednesday.

Why it matters: Despite vaccination efforts, public health officials have said rapid home tests will be essential for businesses, homes and schools to get back on track to normalcy.

The big picture: The announcement follows Monday’s news by the Food and Drug Administration to allow the sale of an antigen test from U.S.-based Acon Laboratories.

  • In February, the administration committed $1.6 billion to supply rapid tests to schools and underserved communities.

Details: The administration plans to triple the number of at-home tests on the market by early November and quadruple that number by December, giving the U.S. 200 million tests per month.

  • The White House also plans to announce they'll commit to double the number of pharmacies in the federal government's free testing program to 20,000 locations. Community-based free testing sites would bring the total number to 30,000.
  • White House testing director Carole Johnson said on NBC News on Wednesday that the administration has also secured commitments from leading retailers to sell the tests at cost and that it is arranging for tests to be distributed through food banks and community health centers.

What to watch: Public health experts have said the number of tests in circulation is not nearly enough, arguing that the FDA has been dragging its feet on emergency authorizations for tests that are available in other countries.

  • The FDA has expressed concern regarding the accuracy these tests have compared to the PCR tests evaluated in labs that typically take several days for results.
  • "Importantly, with these investments, there will not just be more tests on the market, but we expect much more affordable tests on the market," per a White House official.

What they're saying: Michael Mina, a Harvard University epidemiologist who has advocated for at-home testing, called the announcement "huge news" but said increasing testing is multifold:

  • "We can't simply produce tests and assume they'll eliminate spread. We need strategy," Mina tweeted Wednesday. "Just as [the U.S. government] is supporting purchase of tests, they should support businesses & schools by providing critical tools that will enable the tests to be reliably used."
Go deeper