(CNN) – The Biden administration has signed its first contract with a COVID-19 test manufacturer as part of President Joe Biden’s efforts to distribute half a billion free rapid tests nationwide, a White House official confirmed to CNN. Of.
The Defense Department awarded Goldbelt Security, LLC a $51 million contract for the “delivery of over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits.” According to a White House official, with this contract, the administration is buying the company’s existing tests. The administration is planning to sign other contracts for manufacturing.
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Officials have offered few details as Biden announced an effort to send free testing kits amid a nationwide shortage and a surge in new cases. But they hope to launch a website this month where people can sign up for tests online and then send them.
Officials said the first contracts have been signed and more are expected in the coming weeks.
Biden last month announced the purchase of a half-billion at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, one of a series of new steps he unveiled as the country faces a potentially crippling run of infections. According to the White House, 500 million new tests will be made available in January and reach Americans via mail.
Distributing free home tests to all Americans was stopped by the White House as recently as December. Press Secretary Jen Psaki scoffed earlier that month when asked whether tests should be given free and available everywhere.
“Should we send just one to every American?” He asked.
But weeks later, Saki expressed some regret about her earlier comments.
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“Not a day goes by that I don’t leave this forum and I wish I had said something with more context or more precise or additional information,” Psaki said.
Last week, Biden – speaking to the country’s governors – acknowledged steps he took earlier this year to ramp up testing capacity for Covid-19 were not enough to meet demand as the country’s A wave propelled by the highly permeable Omicron version had crashed in 2008.
“It’s not enough. It’s clearly not enough. Had we known, we would have been tougher, if we could,” he told a weekly discussion between state leaders and members of his Covid-19 response team. said while attending the virtual meeting.
He said the long test lines over the Christmas weekend “show we have more work to do.”
Last week Biden – citing the Stafford Act – directed federal funding through FEMA to aid in the deployment of the COVID test.
“It is my administration’s policy to protect and support our families, schools and businesses, and to assist the state to the fullest extent and capacity of the federal government to combat and combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.” Respond, to local, tribal and regional governments to do so,” Biden wrote. “This policy includes the use of emergency and disaster assistance available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to test for COVID-19 in the places where it is most needed.”
The order mandates the Department of Health and Human Services to use FEMA funding “to provide testing sites launched and operated by HHS in close coordination with state, local, tribal and regional public health departments, on a fully reimbursed basis,” gives instructions.
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