(CNN) — It’s about to get faster, easier and cheaper to get an at-home Covid-19 test, the Biden administration says. The administration is set to boost Covid-19 testing in the US by announcing an additional investment in at-home rapid tests.
On Wednesday, a White House official said, the US will announce a $1 billion investment, which will go toward the “purchase of rapid at-home Covid tests to further mobilize our testing manufacturers to bring more to market.”
In September, President Joe Biden announced a $2 billion investment in rapid testing for community health centers, food bank and schools, and also announced that retailers including Walmart, Amazon and Kroger will sell at-home rapid test kits at cost for the next three months.
But demand has outpaced supply for those tests so far, with shelves empty across the country. The administration is seeking to quickly ramp up that supply.
The $1 billion announcement also comes days after the US Food and Drug Administration authorized Flowflex, an at-home antigen test from ACON laboratories, which will accelerate the pace of rapid tests hitting the shelves.
The Flowflex test authorization, the FDA said in a statement Monday, “should significantly increase the availability of rapid, at-home tests and is expected to double rapid at-home testing capacity in the U.S. over the next several weeks.”
The Wednesday announcement, paired with Biden’s September announcement and the FDA authorization, the White House official said, means “we are now on track to quadruple the amount of at-home, rapid tests available to Americans in December.”
In recent months, the US has produced about 30 million tests per month, which is expected to accelerate to 200 million tests per month starting in December, the official said.
The administration will also announce Wednesday that it will double the government’s free testing program to include 20,000 local pharmacies.
“With these pharmacy sites added to the thousands of community-based free testing sites, in total there will be 30,000 free testing sites,” the official said.
The administration is working to increase US vaccinations, with 76% of the US population over 12 years of age having at least one vaccine dose as of Wednesday and that number growing as workplace mandates go into effect. But fast, easy, affordable testing remains a critical tool to getting the pandemic under control and curbing outbreaks.
There are several types of diagnostic tests, including antigen tests, which are generally faster and more affordable, and can be performed alone at home or with a virtual aide, or may be administered by a doctor or pharmacist. The “gold standard” of Covid-19 tests are rt-PCR tests, a type of nucleic acid amplification test, which are highly accurate and detect genetic material from the virus.
The current seven-day average of new tests is just over 1.7 million per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University Centers for Civic Impact, down from a January 2021 high of 2 million, but significantly increased from a July 2021 low seven-day weekly average of 492,000 new tests.
Former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, who led the agency under former President Donald Trump, acknowledged Wednesday that the Trump administration should have done more to build up US testing capacity in the first months of the pandemic.
“There was no ‘warp speed’ for diagnostics. You know, if we could do a rerun, we’d have a warp speed for diagnostics. That’d be our top priority,” Redfield said in an interview with SiriusXM Doctor Radio’s “Doctor Radio Reports.”
Redfield said that he and then-Covid-19 task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx began to understand in mid-February 2020 that Covid-19 was a “new virus” and that “asymptomatic spreads are going to be a problem and testing has gotta be the backbone of our strategy to try to control this epidemic.”
But the US, he said, “was always behind” in testing. Trump frequently lambasted US testing efforts, falsely claiming that more testing added Covid-19 cases to the total case count, amid concerns that could be used against him politically. “Cases, Cases, Cases! If we didn’t test so much and so successfully, we would have very few cases,” Trump said in one of many tweets on the matter.
Redfield suggested BARDA, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an office within the US Department of Health and Human Services, could have done more to stimulate the private sector into developing more testing and he was “disappointed” they did not do so.
“If we could rewrite this again, we needed Roche and we needed Abbott,” he said, referencing two health care companies, “and we needed the diagnostic companies on a Manhattan Project in January pouring out — literally, we should have been testing, you know, 5 million, 10 million tests a day,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.