Funding from American Rescue Plan will help CDC and Governors monitor, track, and defeat emerging variants that are currently threatening pockets of the country
The original strain of COVID-19 comprises only about half of all cases in America today. New and potentially dangerous strains of the virus make up the other half. In order to improve the detection, monitoring, and mitigation of these COVID-19 variants, the Biden Administration is rapidly investing $1.7 billion from the American Rescue Plan to help states and other jurisdictions more effectively fight these mutations.
An essential component of the response to the emerging COVID-19 variants is increasing the country’s genomic sequencing — the process by which COVID DNA is decoded and potentially deadly mutations in the virus are detected. Today’s funding, allocated through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will help the CDC, states, and other jurisdictions more effectively detect and track variants by scaling genomic sequencing efforts. With the information from sequencing, the CDC and state and local public health leaders can implement known prevention measures to stop the spread.
In early February, U.S. laboratories were only sequencing about 8,000 COVID-19 strains per week. Since then, the rate of sequencing has increased substantially, strengthening the country’s ability to detect and respond to emerging and more contagious COVID-19 strains, like the variants currently sweeping through the Midwest and parts of the East Coast. The Biden Administration has already made a nearly $200 million investment to help increase genomic sequencing to 29,000 samples per week. Thanks to today’s funding from the American Rescue Plan, states and the CDC will expand that even further and, importantly, provide states with more resources to expand their own efforts to increase geographic coverage of sequencing to better detect emerging threats like variants. This will mean that both existing and any new COVID variants could be detected faster, before they grow prevalent.
Today’s announcement includes:
- $1 billion to expand genomic sequencing: This funding will help CDC, states, and other jurisdictions improve their capacity to 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. A state-by-state breakdown of the initial $240 million in jurisdictional funding support is below.
- $400 million to support innovation initiatives including the launch of new innovative Centers of Excellence in Genomic Epidemiology: The funding will establish six Centers of Excellence in Genomic Epidemiology. These centers of excellence will operate as partnerships between state health departments and academic institutions, and today’s funding will fuel cutting-edge research into genomic epidemiology. For example, the partnerships could focus on developing new genomic surveillance tools to better track pathogens of public health interest with the objective of developing surveillance methods to be used more widely in the public health system. Areas of focus will likely include bioinformatic workflows and the critical integration of genomic and epidemiologic data.
- $300 million to build and support a National Bioinformatics Infrastructure: One of the challenges of building out the nation’s sequencing capacity is having the data system necessary to quickly and effectively access information and turn it into concrete actions to prevent the spread of viruses. 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 decisionmaking. This funding also will support training to increase sequencing in clinical settings and expand CDC’s Bioinformatics Fellowship program.
STATE FUNDING BREAKDOWN
The first tranche of funding, outlined below, will be distributed in early May. A second tranche of funding will be invested over the next several years.
|CA||California (less LA County)||$17,091,936|
|DC||District of Columbia||$1,287,724|
|IL||Illinois (less Chicago)||$6,381,627|
|NY||New York (less NYC)||$7,007,315|
|PA||Pennsylvania (less Philadelphia)||$7,062,902|
|TX||Texas (less Houston)||$15,555,044|
|LAC||Los Angeles County||$6,415,283|
|NYC||New York City||$5,480,079|