Under the Expanding COVID-19 Testing Capacity Act, introduced this week by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the federal government would be required to manufacture and expand the number of institutions to which it distributes diagnostic tests to increase access to free COVID-19 testing.
Based on figures showing that the United States is currently only conducting around 2 million tests per day, the legislation is predicated on the notion that more testing is immediately required. Therefore, it would require the Department of Health and Human Services to boost, be it through personal production or contracting out, manufacturing of diagnostic tests and associated medical products, and then providing them free to state, local, territorial and tribal healthcare providers and programs.
“It’s long past time that the federal government throws real muscle behind controlling and mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and investing in and implementing aggressive testing measures are a critical part of this effort,” Warren said. “Even as vaccine distribution begins, testing will remain a critical tool in reducing rates of COVID-19 infections. High-quality and frequent COVID-19 testing should be easily available to all Americans, and this is why I’m glad to be introducing legislation to ensure that our nation has expanded access to federally funded testing.”
Such equipment would begin to be dispersed to diagnostic tests to community centers, congregate care settings, schools, and childcare facilities, religious centers, prisons and jails, businesses that employ essential workers, and other qualified locations across the country, to test workers, students, teachers, residents, and others. Another $25 billion of investment into state, local, territorial, and tribal systems would guarantee this, and demographic data on administered tests would be collected to allow the government to better reduce test distribution disparities. HHS would also be required to expedite the approval of COVID-19 tests.
Yet the bill goes further in its ambitions, pushing for a $15 minimum wage and overtime pay for all those potentially hired or employed using the bill’s funding.