HHS Strategic COVID-19 Testing Plan Includes Federal Support, But States Have to Execute

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Sunday released its “COVID-19 Strategic Testing Plan” to Congress, and argued that a targeted testing strategy “based on diagnosis, contact tracing, and smart surveillance” is the best solution to allow the country to emerge from pandemic-inducted lockdowns.

The report, which was released as part of requirements set by the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, puts the responsibility for formulating and implementing testing testing plans on states, the New York Times noted on May 25.

However, the federal government will be providing some supplies to help states meet testing targets, according to the report.

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Specifically in May, the federal government will distribute 12.9 million swabs and 9.8 million tubes of transport media for samples.

“If states surpass their testing goals for May, additional collection supplies are available for limited federal supplementation if states cannot otherwise procure these supplies,” the report said. “The federal government procurement still represents much less than half of the overall U.S. commercial market availability, so states can continue to procure supplies on their own.”

If states exceed their testing goals for May, the federal government can supplement them in a limited way if the states cannot obtain the supplies on their own, according to the report. The federal government intends to acquire 100 million swabs and 100 million tubes of viral transport media to distribute to states as requested, to ensure states have the collection supplies needed through December 2020.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last week issued guidance for states on reopening nursing homes, calling for the facilities to secure COVID-19 testing for residents and staff before they can relax any restrictions.

CMS’s recommendations call for the capacity to provide all nursing home residents a COVID-19 test, as well as the capacity to test all residents when an individual is identified with symptoms of COVID-19 or when a staff member tests COVID-19-positive. They also include the capacity to provide all nursing home staff, including volunteers and vendors in the facility, on a weekly basis.

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