Biden administration allocates $10 billion for COVID-19 testing to reopen schools

EXCLUSIVE: Biden's American Rescue Plan will financially support COVID-19 screening program for teachers, students and staff

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“Help is here” are the words from the White House COVID-19 Task Force is reiterating from President Joe Biden’s recent address to the nation.  

Some of that help is said to be investments in COVID-19 testing for the “safety of schools.” 

Read More: Teacher vaccinations go untracked amid school reopening push

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) that President Biden signed into law last week financially supports a COVID-19 screening program for teachers, students and staff. The price tag is $10 billion for testing in schools across the country.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event on the American Rescue Plan as U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris listens in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 12, 2021 in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event on the American Rescue Plan as U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris listens in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Carole Johnson of the COVID-19 response team said “every state in America will have access to millions of dollars to set up screening testing programs to add a layer of protection.”

The Department of Health and Human Services allocated the new funding from ARP for the screenings meant for students, teachers, and staff. Screenings will occur for those who have symptoms or have been exposed to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will work with states and local districts on technical support involving testing. 

Read More: People of color bear COVID-19′s economic brunt, AP-NORC poll finds

Dr. Annette Anderson, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, told theGrio, “I think it’s clear that the federal government has taken a much more active, hands-on approach to reopening schools.

“Within the first 60 days of the Biden administration, you are finally seeing an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality in terms of federal coordination and collaboration across agencies on unprecedented levels of funding for key issues like testing and contact tracing that we know remain pivotal to the path to reopening.”

Dr. Annette Anderson, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools (Photo: Johns Hopkins School of Education)

Anderson added, “It still remains to be seen, however, how much effort the Biden administration will be able to put into coordination and tracking of teacher and student vaccinations. Understanding the picture around educator and student vaccinations will be critical to expanding the number of in-person seats that can be offered to students next fall,’ added Anderson.

However, as schoolhouse testing is anticipated, questions remain focused on when vaccinations will be available to school-aged children.  

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) answered a question from theGrio’s April Ryan, acknowledging several companies are in the midst of vaccination research on children.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a recent White House press briefing. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Read More: Fauci cautiously warns we could still be wearing masks in 2022

In the children’s vaccine studies currently being conducted, there are two main factors being researched, “safety” and “immunogenicity,” according to Dr. Fauci. In layman’s terms, immunogenicity is the ability to create an immune response in the body of a human or animal.  

Dr. Fauci said answers on vaccinations for high schoolers will come in the fall. He also mentioned a new Moderna study that started this week that probes multiple aspects of safety with age de-escalation from 12 year-olds to 9 year-olds, 9 to 6 year-olds, 6 to 2 year-olds and 2 year-olds to 6 month-olds.  

Fauci did not offer a timetable on the expectation of the findings for those vaccine studies. 

Meanwhile, as schools are reopening there are reports of students testing positive with COVID-19. The Baltimore Sun reported this week Baltimore City Public schools reported 13 positive tests in their weekly testing cycle.

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