Biden to Invest $1.7 Billion in Variant Fight
April 19, 2021 — The Biden administration plans to invest $1.7 billion to help the CDC and states fight COVID-19 variants in the U.S. through better detection and genomic sequencing efforts, the White House announced on Friday.
The original strain of the coronavirus comprises about half of all cases in the country today, and variants make up the other half.
“An essential component of the response to the emerging COVID-19 variants is increasing the country’s genomic sequencing — the process by which COVID DNA is decoded and potentially deadly mutations in the virus are detected,” the White House said in a statement.
“With the information from sequencing, the CDC and state and local public health leaders can implement known prevention measures to stop the spread,” according to the statement.
In early February, U.S. laboratories sequenced about 8,000 COVID-19 strains per week. Since then, the rate has increased to about 29,000 samples per week. The new funding will expand that even more and allow states to increase geographic coverage to detect emerging variants sooner.
The $1.7 billion will be included in the American Rescue Plan. The funding will be split into three areas, with $1 billion for genomic sequencing, $400 million for new Centers of Excellence in Genomic Epidemiology to support new research, and $300 million for a National Bioinformatics Infrastructure to create a unified system for sharing and analyzing data.
The first portion of funding will be distributed in early May, and the next rounds will be sent in next few years, according to the White House statement. In a state-by-state breakdown, California will receive $17 million in May, followed by $15 million for Texas, and $12 million for Florida.
CDC and state health officials have been monitoring COVID-19 variants to look for “variants of concern” that could be more transmissible among people. The B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the U.K., is now the most prominent variant in the U.S. and accounts for 44% of cases, according to the latest CDC update.
Variants have led to a rise in COVID-19 cases across the country, particularly in the Midwest. At least 21 states have recorded a 10% increase in daily average cases, according to CNN. Michigan has reported some of the highest case numbers and hospitalizations, with some hospitals reaching full capacity.
Public health officials are urging people to get a COVID-19 vaccine to slow the continued spread of the virus and contagious variants. More than 131 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Saturday. About 84 million people — more than 25% of the population — are considered fully vaccinated.
“It would really, I think, not be prudent at all to declare victory prematurely and pull back [on public health measures],” Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“We will reach the point where we will be able to get back to doing things the way we did before,” he said. “But we’re going to have to make sure that we get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can.”