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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

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

CDC director: U.S. may change definition of "fully vaccinated" as boosters roll out

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday the U.S. "may need to update" its definition for what it means to have full vaccination against COVID.

The big picture: The CDC and the FDA have officially approved boosters with every authorized vaccine in the U.S. for people who meet specific requirements. Walensky explained that since not everyone is eligible for a booster, the definition has not been changed "yet."

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Illinois mandates daycare workers to receive COVID vaccine or weekly testing

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a round table discussion with high school students in October 2018. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Friday that all daycare workers in the state will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or or submit to weekly testing.

Driving the news: Pritzker said he was issuing the requirement to protect "babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine."

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from Saturday night, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.