NEW YORK – Members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team announced on Friday that the Biden administration is finalizing contracts with six companies to quickly increase domestic testing capability for at-home SARS-CoV-2 tests.
The deal would result in 61 million point-of-care or at-home tests available by the end of the summer, which Andy Slavitt, the senior adviser for the COVID-19 response team, said would "change things pretty significantly" for the country. The announcement follows the news earlier this week that the US Department of Defense awarded $231.8 million to Ellume USA to produce the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test.
Financial and other terms of the deals were not disclosed. Because the contract negotiations haven't been finalized, the six suppliers were not named, although Tim Manning, the supply coordinator for the response team, said the negotiations were halfway done and more announcements would come in the next few weeks.
Using the Defense Production Act – which allows the president to direct non-government industries to prioritize orders for the federal government – the investments in the six companies will bring non-prescription, at-home tests to the market. Manning said the investment will be used to construct new plants and build new production lines in the US, reducing vulnerabilities to supply chain disruptions. The DPA will also be used to expand manufacturing of vaccines and personal protective equipment for frontline workers, Manning said.
Manning added that the US is "well behind where we need to be in testing."
The investments come after President Biden announced his plans to scale and expand testing by creating a national pandemic testing board. In his plan released last month, the president said the federal government would expand the rapid testing supply, double testing supplies, increase testing capacity, and increase antigen and molecular testing manufacturing in the US. The administration will also fill testing supply shortfalls, enhance laboratory capacity to conduct testing, and expand surveillance for variants of the virus.
Slavitt noted that the administration also wants to add more genomic sequencing for variants and ramp up molecular tests but will need congressional approval for its $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.