The White House announced Wednesday that it’s making a $1 billion investment toward putting more of the highly sought-after, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests on the market.
With that investment, the White House expects that 200 million rapid tests will be available for purchase each month by December.
“To summarize, we are on track to quadruple the supply of rapid tests available to Americans by December,” Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 coordinator, said at a news conference. The Biden administration also plans to significantly increase the federal government’s free pharmacy testing program to 30,000 sites.
“Together, the steps we’re taking will ensure that every American, no matter their income level or ZIP code, can access accurate, convenient and affordable tests,” Zients said.
Though the Biden administration made a $2 billion investment last month to get those tests into community health centers, food banks and schools, as well as to stock them at several retailers at cost, the demand has outpaced supply. The White House expects the price of these tests, which is about $10 now, to drop as supply booms.
A large chunk of that demand is coming from companies testing unvaccinated employees on a regular basis.
“Employer demand has gone crazy,” Doug Bryant, the chief executive of test manufacturer Quidel, told Reuters this week before Wednesday’s announcement. “We won’t be able to meet all the requests that we’re having.”
Though the rapid tests are not as sensitive as PCR tests, they are more accessible and, experts say, they can help quickly identify highly contagious people with high viral loads. In a pinch, health experts suggest using them before gathering in a high-risk setting to avoid spreading the disease to others.
The shelf life of the tests is typically six months to one year.