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The U.S. is conducting about 1.6 million COVID-19 tests per week right now. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The National Institutes of Health is spending $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money to speed the development of COVID-19 tests, with a goal of creating "millions" of quick tests every week "by the end of summer 2020, and even more in time for the flu season," the federal agency said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Containing the coronavirus outbreak and resuming a semblance of normal life will require a big increase in the country's testing capacity, which is still well below where experts say it should be.

Driving the news: NIH is going to set up a "Shark Tank"-like process, awarding money to companies that have promising ideas and helping those tests get quicker regulatory approval, NIH director Francis Collins said on a conference call.

  • The focus will be on viral tests that provide accurate results and are easy to use at home or the point of care.
  • NIH officials said they hope this initiative will substantially increase the weekly test capacity, but they did not want to put a precise number on a goal.
  • The agency aims to commercialize five tests from the pool of applicants.

The bottom line: The U.S. is currently conducting 1.6 million COVID-19 tests per week. However, experts believe we need to be doing at least 3.5 million per week — some say at least 30 million per week — to have a better idea of who has the virus.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 8, 2020 - Health

The states where face coverings are mandatory

Data: Compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Wyoming on Monday became the latest state to implement a mask mandate to fight COVID-19, amid a steep spike in cases across the country.

The big picture: States are reintroducing mitigation efforts like closing businesses and advising people to stay home as the U.S. averages the most daily cases of any point in the pandemic.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull — Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies— Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker
Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."