White House funnels $1B into at-home COVID test makers, quadrupling monthly supply by December

With the COVID-19 pandemic still far from over and demand for rapid, at-home tests overtaking the nation’s scaled-back supply, the U.S. government has poured billions of dollars into efforts to ramp test production back up and make rapid tests widely accessible.

The latest infusion will direct $1 billion toward helping test makers increase manufacturing. During a press briefing on Wednesday, Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said that the funding will begin bringing “tens of millions more tests” to market within the next month.

“It allows the manufacturers to have the confidence in the demand to scale up their production,” Zients said. “It’s an expansion of the industrial base so that more manufacturing occurs based on the U.S.’s commitment to the testing sector.”

Among those manufacturers committed to growing test production are Quidel and OraSure, both of whom Zients said committed this week to expand and accelerate their manufacturing processes, “taking months off their timelines and adding tens of millions of tests per month to their production capacity.”

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The billion-dollar investment is also estimated to quadruple the total number of at-home, rapid tests available to Americans by December. Beginning that month, that number will reach 200 million tests per month, which will be available for purchase and distribution by government entities, employers and consumers alike.

“The U.S. government will purchase tests and distribute them to community health centers and food pantries and other places across the country. But what this does, on top of that, is really expand their production so there’s many more available—at-home tests available for consumers, employers if they want to purchase them,” Zients said.

He added, “We’ll continue to pull every lever to expand manufacturing and production of tests, which will have the impact of driving down the cost per test and making sure that tests are widely available and convenient.”

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The latest allotment of funds builds on the White House’s months-long efforts to help test makers meet the demand of Americans’ testing needs as they return to work and school.

Just last month, President Joe Biden directed another $2 billion to those efforts. The funding was split between upping the availability of free testing at thousands of pharmacies and community-based testing sites across the U.S. and signing purchase commitments that helped manufacturers make enough tests to supply those sites and other distributors.

Those commitments resulted in a predicted doubling of the number of available rapid, at-home tests by early November, Zients said in this week’s briefing.

That forecast was soon updated into a tripling of available tests by November, thanks to the FDA’s authorization this week of another over-the-counter rapid test. With the emergency approval, ACON Laboratories is now planning to produce more than 100 million of its Flowflex COVID-19 Home Tests per month by the end of this year, and double that by next February.