Story at a glance

  • Domestic violence shelters, prisons and medical recovery facilities will split $1.6 billion in new COVID-19 screening funding.
  • The money comes as new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise.
  • The delta variant is largely blamed for the new outbreak.

The Biden administration announced on Thursday that it would inject $1.6 billion in new COVID-19 testing initiatives to support coronavirus mitigation efforts in high-risk congregate settings.

The money comes from Biden’s American Rescue Plan. It comes as the U.S. is seeing a resurgence in new infections and hospitalizations with the spread of the contagious delta variant. 

Recent scientific literature suggests that viral loads, or the amount of the coronavirus existing inside an infected host, were nearly 1,000 times greater than those of older strains. 

The delta variant is hitting states like Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, and Louisiana — all regions with low vaccination rates. This renewed virus spread has culminated in a 171-percent increase in new infections, a 49-percent increase in hospitalizations, and a 42-percent increase in deaths, per national data aggregated by The New York Times

Some of the sites that will receive funding include homeless and domestic violence shelters, correctional facilities and medical treatment and recovery facilities. 

“As we continue the vaccination program to get more Americans protected, it is important that we double down on our efforts to increase testing especially in vulnerable communities,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we can make sure high-risk environments like correctional facilities and shelters for those experiencing homelessness have greater capacity for testing to prevent potential outbreaks and continue our nation’s progress in moving out of the pandemic.”

Such a large boost in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responds not only to new COVID-19 infections, but record spikes in drug overdoses that occurred during the pandemic. 

Mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities will receive $100 million in government funding to help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks among residents and staff. Similarly, homeless shelters, along with other congregate living facilities, will receive $88 million to help prevent virus spread inside the properties. 

Federal, state and local correctional facilities and prisons will receive $169 million to advance COVID-19 testing and surveillance, on top of a separate $700 million in funding in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Justice that will go toward 64 municipalities to continue virus screening programs. 

Domestic violence centers and other family communities will receive $550 million through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program to keep these resources operational amid increases in COVID-19 infections. 

Public health officials have doubled down on mask mandates as delta variant cases rise to compose 83 percent of all current COVID-19 infections. Experts like Rochelle Walensky and Anthony Fauci also urge the American public to get vaccinated if they have not. 

"Each death is tragic, and even more heartbreaking when we know the majority of deaths could be prevented with a simple, safe available vaccine,” Walensky said during a Senate committee hearing. 

Published on Jul 22, 2021