Biden Increases CDC Funding for Fight Against COVID
The Biden administration has announced a plan to increase funding by $1.6 billion for the fight against COVID. Most of the money will go toward expanding testing programs, especially for elementary schools, middle schools and homeless shelters. This will help schools reopen and reduce community spread. The funding will also expand the manufacturing of testing supplies, which will help the public at large.
$200 million is allocated to the CDC for genomic sequencing of virus variants. The administration has billed this $200 million as a down payment. The broader stimulus package being considered by Congress calls for $1.75 billion for virus sequencing.
Tracking COVID-19’s genetics is important because it is clear that the COVID-19 virus can mutate in interesting ways. Despite hopes last spring that the mutations would make the coronavirus weaker, that hasn’t happened. Some of the variants that have been discovered are more transmissible or more deadly, and it is unclear how well the current vaccines work against them.
The CDC currently sequences 9,000 genomes a week. The increased funding will allow it to get to 25,000. This would be close to 5% of new cases a week, which epidemiologists consider to be adequate for identifying the spread of new variants.
Researchers told The New York Times that increasing the turnaround time at the sequencing laboratories is more important in the near term than increasing the number of tests. The faster contact tracers and other public health experts can get information about the variants that they are dealing with, the faster they can control the spread. The $200 million is a start, but it is unlikely to be enough.
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