Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recently made announcements to help support expanding COVID-19 testing capacity. Congress and the Executive Branch continue to work together to ramp up testing, which recently hit a record high of 929,838 tests in a day according to The COVID Tracking Project.
Over the weekend, HHS and DOD announced a $7.6 million award to expand the production of COVID-19 tests manufactured by Hologic Inc. This funding will help increase the tubes, caps, and other materials needed for COVID-19 tests, increasing the number of tests made each month to 6.8 million.
To expand testing capacity, on July 24th FDA announced another emergency use authorization (EUA) for pool testing that allows for up to five samples to be tested at a time. EUAs for pool testing are welcome news and in line with a recommendation from the testing and surveillance pillar of E&C Republicans’ Second Wave Preparedness Project. Pool testing can save supplies and speed up the turnaround times of results by testing multiple people at a time for COVID-19.
In Congress, we are constantly looking at ways to expand COVID-19 testing efforts in addition to our work to provide resources to help states and local public health officials expand their testing capacity. E&C members Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN), along with Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), recently introduced two bipartisan bills that could help build testing, the Diagnostic Testing for Public Health Labs Act and the Rapid Testing for Communities Act.
The Diagnostic Testing for Public Health Labs Act would authorize grants to public health labs to expand high-throughput testing. High-throughput platforms can process many tests in a short period of time, and this bill would help public health labs acquire equipment and other supplies needed to increase testing capacity.
The Rapid Testing for Communities Act would help people in rural areas with less access to health care resources receive quicker COVID-19 test results by increasing point-of-care testing. This bill would establish a grant program to increase this type of testing in those underserved areas.
“By increasing rapid turnaround testing outside of a laboratory, patients would be able to get tested and receive results directly from their health care provider while still in the doctor’s office, providing yet another tool in the toolbox for our health care workers,” wrote Bucshon in an op-ed.
Congress and the Executive Branch continue to harness American ingenuity, federal resources, and every tool available to increase COVID-19 testing as we continue to work to find a vaccine to protect us from the Invisible Enemy.