On Thursday, the White House announced that it is investing $1.6 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan passed in March toward boosting COVID-19 testing and mitigation efforts in schools, prisons, homeless, and domestic violence shelters.
“As COVID-19 cases rise among unvaccinated people and where the more transmissible Delta virus variant is surging, this funding will expand activities to detect, diagnose, trace, and monitor infections and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in homeless shelters, treatment and recovery facilities, domestic violence shelters and federal, state and local correctional facilities– some of the hardest hit and highest risk communities across the country,” the Department of Health and Human Services said.
Another $100 million will be sent to rural health clinics to pay for more vaccine education and outreach in communities that generally have seen the slowest vaccine uptake.
“This funding will give trusted messengers in rural communities the tools they need to counsel patients on how COVID-19 vaccines can help protect them and their loved ones,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said.
As they send more resources, federal health officials emphasized that those spikes in infections and hospitalizations typically are occurring in regions that have the lowest rates of vaccination.
“Everybody in public health recognizes that we’re moving into a spot in which we had been at the beginning of the pandemic, where you need adequate testing. We’re going to be testing again, and in much larger numbers,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitalizations are up by 35%, and deaths are up by 26%.
“It’s ground war. With the number of cases and hospitalizations going up, you’d expect to see a greater degree of testing,” Scott Becker, Chief Executive of the Laboratories Group, said.
The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is responsible for most new infections in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.