White House rejected plan to step up COVID testing while on vacation: report

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The Biden government tabled a proposal in October that sought to avert this year’s holiday COVID testing crisis by producing more than 700 million tests every month, according to a new report.

Vanity Fair reported that a group of COVID-19 testing experts from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative, and several other organizations presented a 10-page plan to White House officials on October 22nd.

It reportedly called for the production of approximately 732 million tests per month under what the document calls the “Testing Surge To Prevent” [a] Holiday COVID surge. ”The plan also included a provision for“ Every American Household Will Get Free Rapid Tests For The Holidays / New Years ”.

In order to achieve the high goal, according to Vanity Fair, the experts suggested coordinating a rollout with Amazon, pharmacies, state health authorities and local community centers. They also encouraged the administration to run a campaign similar to “Say Yes! Covid-Test “initiative to reduce the spread before Christmas.

The plan was put together by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative, and several other organizations.

However, three days after the meeting, White House officials informed the experts that the government would not pursue the plan. “

Instead, the White House would announce a plan that focuses on running rapid home tests through the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory approval process. To date, the FDA has approved 11 COVID-19 tests for over-the-counter sales.

It’s Christmas now, and the U.S. is up to exactly what experts feared: a massive spike in cases due to the Omicron variant and a lack of readily available tests – resulting in residents of cities like New York waiting for hours had to. long lines to have their noses wiped.

Dr. Michael Mina, one of the experts who attended the October meeting, told Vanity Fair that the federal government “does not support the idea of ​​testing as a useful means of limiting harm”. He added that it was “undeniable” that the Biden government had overturned the priority of COVID tests in favor of their vaccination campaign.

Boxing of Abbott's BinaxNow home COVID-19 tests
The FDA has so far approved 11 COVID-19 tests for over-the-counter sales.
AP Photo / Ted S. Warren

“We have to admit at all levels of government that vaccines are not the end,” said Mina.

Dr. Steven Phillips, vice president of science and strategy for the COVID Collaboration, accused the government of “playing the little ball”.

“When it comes to rapid tests, they drive the players,” he said.

In an interview with ABC News this week, Biden admitted that his government’s introduction of COVID-19 tests at home was not “good enough” and admitted he wished he had “thought about it two months ago” to order the tests.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the government’s testing efforts, telling reporters Thursday that “there was no demand for testing in this country” over the summer.

“Delta has obviously increased the demand. We also had to take steps as the federal government to build the market because the market wasn’t there to meet demand, ”she said. “The president did just that with the Defense Production Act, investing $ 3 billion a few months ago to make sure we build the market, to make sure we have the capacity.”

On Tuesday, Biden announced that the government would make 500 million rapid home COVID tests available for direct order by Americans starting early next month. However, many experts say that the number is not enough.

In total, the White House has promised nearly 1 billion free trials since early September, although it is unclear how many of them have actually been ordered and distributed.


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