By Ahmed Aboulenein
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States will boost its stockpile of at-home COVID-19 tests, ordering more than 100 million tests from domestic manufacturers, the White House said on Thursday, but warned it was a short-term solution.
President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly and unsuccessfully asked Congress for more pandemic money. It said last week it would request $22.4 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19 relief ahead of a potential case surge in autumn.
“The Administration is acting, within its limited funding, to increase the supply of at-home COVID-19 tests in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) by purchasing over 100 million additional at-home, rapid tests from domestic manufacturers,” the White House said in a statement.
The administration has warned it would be unable to provide enough tests, vaccines and treatments without more funding. Thursday’s announcement comes a week after it suspended orders of free tests from its COVIDTests.gov website as of Sept. 2.
“While insufficient to adequately replenish our existing stockpile of at-home tests, this procurement will help meet some testing needs in the months ahead and will put us in a better position to manage a potential increase in testing demand this fall and winter,” the White House said of the new tests.
It did not say if ordering from COVIDTests.gov, through which 600 million tests have been delivered, would resume as a result. It said last week that orders through the website would resume if Congress provides funding.
The administration is also launching a telehealth “Test to Treat” program that will allow people in 15 rural and high-risk communities to get tests delivered to their homes, use telehealth to consult a clinician, and get antiviral treatments prescribed and delivered if necessary at no cost, it said.
There are currently 2,800 “Test to Treat” sites where people can be tested at a pharmacy and immediately receive free pills if they test positive.
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Rami Ayyub and Susan Heavey in WashingtonEditing by Matthew Lewis)