Biden admin buys 100M COVID tests, calls for more funding from Congress

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The White House said Thursday that it had purchased 100 million rapid at-home coronavirus tests from domestic manufacturers.

The Biden administration said it was acting within its "limited funding" to increase the supply of the tests in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).

"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, noting that the move would further its goal of "mobilizing and strengthening the domestic testing manufacturing industrial base."

At the beginning of the month, the federal government stopped a program that provided free at-home tests to U.S. households. 

COVID AT-HOME TESTS: WHITE HOUSE REPORTS SURGE IN DEMAND AS FEDERAL DISTRIBUTION STOPS

In this photo illustration, free iHealth COVID-19 antigen rapid tests from the federal government sit on a U.S. Postal Service envelope after being delivered on Feb. 4, 2022, in San Anselmo, California.  (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images / Getty Images)

In a statement on the website, COVIDTests.gov, it said that ordering had been suspended because Congress had not provided additional funding to replenish the nation's stockpile.

To pay for omicron-specific bivalent booster vaccine shots from Pfizer and Moderna, the Department of Health and Human Services said that the administration was forced to pull $10 billion in existing funding from critical COVID response efforts.

The White House blamed congressional inaction for making difficult tradeoffs that are harmful to U.S. response and preparedness. 

Justin Richards, a pharmacist at Community Pharmacy of Saco, demonstrates how Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test works by using a nasal swab and a solution onto a test strip. (Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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"Last week, we sent an updated $22.4 billion request to Congress to meet immediate short-term domestic needs, including testing; to accelerate the research and development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics; to increase our understanding of Long COVID; to prepare for future surges and variants and to support the global response to COVID-19," the White House said. "While we have made tremendous progress on COVID-19, Congress must step up to ensure that we can continue stay on our front foot against this unpredictable virus."

In this photo illustration, boxes of BinaxNow a COVID-19 at home test kit made by Abbott is seen on Aug. 13, 2022, in North Haledon, New Jersey.  (Photo illustration by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images / Getty Images)

In a White House COVID briefing on Tuesday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said there were not enough tests in the SNS to continue providing them on the federal website. 

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"We will not have enough tests in our Strategic National Stockpile should we see another omicron-like event. We had promised the American people we would make sure that we did not get into that. But with – but we needed Congress to step up; Congress has not stepped up," he said. "So we are constantly making what I think are impossibly difficult decisions."

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