Ian Patrick, FISM News
In a statement issued on April 16, President Biden announced that $1.7 billion of funding set aside by the American Rescue Plan will go towards fighting the emergence of COVID-19 variants. According to the statement, the funding “will help CDC and Governors monitor, track, and defeat emerging variants that are currently threatening pockets of the country.”
The announced funding has been earmarked to go to a variety of different areas in this fight. An even $1 billion will go to expanding “genomic sequencing” which supposedly will help “identify COVID mutations and monitor circulation of variants.”
Specifically, it will allow CDC and jurisdictional health departments to conduct, expand, and improve activities to sequence genomes and identify mutations in SARS-CoV-2. Much of this work is done through CDC partnerships with the laboratory community and through state laboratories, and the funding will support the collection of COVID specimens, the sequencing of COVID viruses, and the sharing of the resultant data.
Another $400 million of the funds “will establish six Centers of Excellence in Genomic Epidemiology.” While on the surface it is an effort to push for research and cooperation between “state health departments and academic institutions,” the statement says this funding could be used to develop a surveillance system to track pathogens which could be used in the grander U.S. health system.
An allotment of $300 million will “build and support a National Bioinformatics Infrastructure.” The statement defines what this could accomplish:
Experts use bioinformatics and complex computing to connect the dots between how pathogens spread and mutate to help solve outbreaks. This investment will support bioinformatics throughout the U.S. public health system, creating a unified system for sharing and analyzing sequence data in a way that protects privacy but allows more informed decision making.
In a separate announcements, the Biden administration will also be taking more than $4 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan specifically to fight COVID-19 in “Indian Country.” Once again, this funding is separated for a variety of purposes.
The Indian Health Service (IHS) will use $600 million to further increase the number of vaccinations in Indian Country, $1 billion will be used to “detect, diagnose, trace, monitor, and mitigate” the disease, and $2 billion will go towards replacing “lost revenues attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Other investments from this funding allotment include:
…more than $84 million in assistance for urban Indian organizations, $140 million for health IT and necessary equipment to provide telehealth services, and $500 million to support overall health care services in Indian Country.