White House to give CDC $1.7B to help find and track COVID-19 variants

The White House is making a $1.7 billion investment to track new, more transmissible strains of COVID-19 alongside preparing for new threats.

The investment comes as cases of the new strains have multiplied in the U.S. over the past few months, leading to a major spike in cases in some states.

“This investment made possible is critical in our fight against the new and potentially dangerous variants of COVID-19,” said Andy Slavitt, senior adviser on the White House COVID-19 Response Team, during a briefing Friday. The new money also “gives public health officials chance to adapt quickly to stop the spread.”

The money will go toward the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for equipment, supplies training and innovation for genomic sequencing to determine the spread of the variants.

The funding is from the American Rescue Plan Act, which included another $200 million to increase genomic sequencing to identify new cases, Slavitt said.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., said that the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, which was first detected in the U.K., made up 44% of the virus cases circulating as of March 27.

She added that the figure is “certainly higher” now, and the agency expects to have more data soon.

Walensky said the seven-day average of cases is up to 69,000.

“Just four weeks ago, the seven-day average was only about 53,000 cases per day,” she added.

Hospitalizations and emergency room visits are also approximately 5% to 8% higher than they were in the prior seven-day period.

The B.1.1.7 variant is known to be more transmissible, but a recent study published earlier this week found it does not cause more severe illnesses among COVID-19 hospitalizations.