The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced three ways the federal government will continue supporting SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes covid-19) testing efforts by states and territories, especially for nursing homes, into the first quarter of 2021. The new commitments build upon more than $31 billion in resources that the US government has provided to help ensure that states and their facilities that care for seniors and others at high risk of death and illness from covid-19 have adequate testing supplies.

“Over the past year, our successful partnerships with federal agencies, industry, state leaders, and state health agencies, have yielded novel, state of the-art covid-19 tests and drastically increased the volume of manufacturing of testing supplies,” says Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, MD. “Our work is not done, however. We are taking action to help ensure that states, territories, and specifically nursing homes, which care for our most vulnerable patients, continue to have access to the right tests at the right time well into 2021.”

First, HHS plans to continue to provide weekly shipments of SARS-CoV-2 sample collection supplies to states and territories through at least March 2021 and likely longer. Supplies such as swabs and transport media are important for increasing testing capacity in communities nationwide.

[Read New FDA Authorization for the BinaxNow Covid-19 Ag Card Home Test]

Second, HHS is collaborating with the General Services Administration (GSA) to provide a streamlined process for states, territories, and other government agencies to purchase point-of-care diagnostic tests, starting with the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test. Through a contract between the federal government and Abbott Diagnostics Scarborough, states, territories, and tribes will be able to purchase tests at a fixed price through an existing Federal Supply Schedule program. The contract eliminates the need for states and territories (as well as federal agencies) to spend resources negotiating and establishing individual purchasing contracts with manufacturers and, most importantly, provides a consistent source of supplies.

The maximum number of tests that states and territories will be able to purchase each month will be predetermined to help ensure adequate supplies for all on an ongoing basis. The program is expected to launch in mid-January.

In partnership with the Department of Defense, HHS procured 150 million Abbott BinaxNOW tests in August. A total of 100 million tests were allocated to the nation’s governors for use as they see fit in their states and were sent in weekly installments starting in September 2020. Shipments of the original state allotments of BinaxNOW tests are expected to be completed in January 2021.

HHS allocated 50 million of the tests to support testing among high-risk populations. Tests were shipped directly to congregate care settings such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health and hospice organizations, the Indian Health Service, and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Finally, to ensure continued testing support of vulnerable populations, HHS is allocating an additional 30 million Abbott BinaxNOW tests for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home healthcare, hospice organizations, HBCUs, tribes, and other vulnerable groups. This 30 million will continue support to these organizations through approximately March 2021.