(The Hill) — The White House on Thursday said it had purchased 100 million rapid at-home COVID-19 tests with its “limited funding,” as the administration continues to call on Congress to pass more pandemic funds.
The Biden administration said in a press release that the 100 million domestically manufactured tests would be directed into the Strategic National Stockpile. White House officials had no further comment on the tests when reached by The Hill.
“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 in its release.
It was announced in late August that the federal government would cease providing free at-home COVID-19 tests. At the time, the administration said this decision was made because “Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests.”
The White House has kept up its calls for Congress to pass more funding, having requested $22.4 billion to combat the coronavirus pandemic earlier this month.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said this week that there is currently an insufficient supply of COVID-19 tests in the national stockpile to handle another potential “omicron-like event.”
“We had promised the American people we would make sure that we did not get into that, but we needed Congress to step up. Congress has not stepped up,” Becerra said.
Health officials are hoping to avoid a major surge in cases this fall and winter with the rollout of the bivalent COVID-19 booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna. In order to fund vaccines and treatments for the upcoming seasons, the administration pulled funds from other areas of the pandemic response effort.
The rate of new coronavirus cases both globally and in the U.S. has been steadily declining in recent weeks, though experts have warned that it is still too soon to pull back mitigation efforts. Apart from the ongoing monkeypox outbreak, officials have expressed concerns that the flu season this year may be more severe than usual, citing early data coming from the Southern Hemisphere.
During a press briefing this week, Becerra encouraged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as well as the flu at the same time.
“I really believe this is why God gave us two arms, one for the flu shot and the other one for the COVID shot,” said Becerra.