Shaheen Urges HHS to Ramp Up Production of Rapid COVID Testing Kits Amid Surge of Cases in New Hampshire

October 31, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today sent a letter to Secretary Xavier Becerra at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to urge immediate action to increase the supply of rapid COVID-19 testing kits. Given the recent spike in COVID cases – particularly in New Hampshire, which is among the fourth highest state in the nation for surging infection rates – Shaheen pushed the department to work with manufacturers to ramp up production for rapid testing.

Increased testing capacity is particularly important for schools and businesses to resume normal operations. Rapid testing will help students return to school faster to prevent disruptions in learning. For employers, increased testing capacity can help contain outbreaks and allow employees to return to work after a potential exposure without infecting their coworkers.

“I write regarding the need to bolster the domestic supply chain for rapid response COVID-19 testing kits,” Shaheen wrote. “Due to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases this summer, increased demand for rapid tests has greatly diminished the supply of these critical tools…I urge you to continue efforts to ensure that the federal government can procure and distribute the rapid tests required to safely reopen our communities.”

“As schools and sectors of the economy continue to reopen, we must be capable of testing individuals efficiently and effectively to stem the spread of COVID-19,” she continued. “Rapid testing ensures that students can receive their results quickly and return to in-person learning without significant gaps in their education… Rapid testing capabilities are also critical to ensuring that businesses are able to operate in this uncertain environment…These rapid tests help keep our economy open and our workforce protected against the widespread transmission of the virus.”

Senator Shaheen has led in securing critical funds to address the COVID crisis and ensure robust testing is available in New Hampshire and across the nation. Shaheen previously called for Congress to fix discrepancies that caused small and rural states to receive significantly less funding for vaccines and testing than originally estimated. In the emergency relief package signed into law in December, small and rural states received significantly less funding for testing and vaccinations than expected due to a population-based formula that does not accommodate the unique challenges faced by small and rural states. Shaheen also previously sent a letter with a bipartisan group of Senators to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the formula used to distribute federal funding to states for COVID-19 vaccine administration efforts, which left smaller states at a distinct disadvantage. The Senators requested that the CDC use available discretionary funds to bolster funding for states like New Hampshire.

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Secretary Becerra,

I write regarding the need to bolster the domestic supply chain for rapid response COVID-19 testing kits. As schools and sectors of the economy continue to reopen, we must be capable of testing individuals efficiently and effectively to stem the spread of COVID-19. I urge you to continue efforts to ensure that the federal government can procure and distribute the rapid tests required to safely reopen our communities.

Due to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases this summer, increased demand for rapid tests has greatly diminished the supply of these critical tools. I know that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been working with manufacturers of COVID-19 testing kits to ramp up production over the next several weeks, including already investing over half a billion dollars from the American Rescue Plan to increase the domestic testing supply. I was also encouraged to see President Biden announce that his Administration plans to invest three billion dollars in rapid testing to greatly expand the supply by December. I urge you to build on these efforts as we continue accelerating production to ensure that states and localities can meet the demand for testing through the fall and winter.

New Hampshire schools have experienced numerous outbreaks of COVID-19 cases among students and teachers. School nurses do their best to follow public health guidance by sending students home if they have a new, unexplained symptom of COVID-19. In most cases, students cannot return to school until their symptoms improve and they receive a negative COVID-19 test. Rapid testing ensures that students can receive their results quickly and return to in-person learning without significant gaps in their education. These tests also help prevent widespread disruptions in education where schools are forced to switch to remote learning due to substantial transmission of the virus.

Rapid testing capabilities are also critical to ensuring that businesses are able to operate in this uncertain environment. Employees depend on rapid testing to ensure that they can return to work after a potential exposure or troubling symptoms without infecting their coworkers. Employers need to account for the safety of their workers by stopping the potential spread of COVID-19 at the outset. These rapid tests help keep our economy open and our workforce protected against the widespread transmission of the virus.

I urge you to continue using every tool at your disposal to ensure that New Hampshire and all states have the supply of rapid COVID-19 testing kits needed to beat this pandemic. I appreciate your commitment to ending the pandemic and working with all partners, public and private, to procure the necessary materials to keep our communities safe and open.

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